Trooper who criticized MSHP after detainee's drowning demoted

2 years 11 months 1 week ago Thursday, June 11 2015 Jun 11, 2015 Thursday, June 11, 2015 11:27:00 AM CDT June 11, 2015 in News
By: James Packard, KOMU 8 Digital Producer

ST. LOUIS - The lawyer for a Missouri State Highway Patrol Trooper who criticized the MSHP's handling of a detainee's drowning death at the Lake of the Ozarks said that trooper has been demoted.

St. Louis-based attorney Chet Pleban, who represents Sgt. Randy Henry of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, said Henry was informed Wednesday he would be demoted to the rank of corporal and transferred to the Truman Lake area, from his current assignment at the Lake of the Ozarks. 

Henry criticized the highway patrol's handling of the May 2014 death of Brandon Ellingson, who drowned after falling off a MSHP water patrol boat as a trooper prepared to conduct a field sobriety test. 

The 20-year-old Ellingson was arrested on suspicion of boating while intoxicated and was wearing handcuffs when he fell overboard. A toxicology report later showed he had cocaine and alcohol in his system when he died. 

Ellingson's death was ruled accidental by a jury at a coroner's inquest in September.

Anthony Piercy, the trooper who arrested Ellingson, testified he never received any formal training on how to use the life vest or which one to use. He said he wasn't trained on what to do if someone in custody went into the water.

Ellingson's parents later filed two lawsuits accusing the Missouri State Highway Patrol of negligence.

They alleged in their lawsuit that Piercy violated Ellingson's constitutional rights. They also alleged the patrol and the Morgan County coroner conspired to hide the facts of the case and deflect blame away from Piercy.

Henry was Piercy's supervisor at the time of the incident. Henry said Piercy's lack of knowledge on life-jacket protocol was surprising. In an interview with investigator Eric Stacks, Sgt. Henry recalled the conversation he had with Piercy just after the incident. Henry said to Piercy, "How'd a type one life jacket come off? He said 'Randy, it was a type three.' I said, 'Excuse me? Wow. Why? What's up with that?" Type I jackets are used on arrested suspects, one of which was stored just below Ellingson's knee on the patrol boat.

MSHP Lt. Paul Reinsch said the Missouri State Highway Patrol cannot comment on personnel matters.

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