In May 2014, a college student named Brandon Ellingson was arrested for “boating while intoxicated.” He was then taken on a police boat where he “either fell or jumped overboard” and drowned, while being handcuffed.
Ellingson was arrested by Anthony Piercy, 45, a Missouri Highway Patrol trooper. He avoided involuntary manslaughter charges in the death by pleading guilty to a much lesser misdemeanor charge. He was sentenced to just 10 days “shock time” in jail, two years of supervised probation and 50 hours of community service.
Piercy was transporting the student for a breath test when the incident took place. The boat reportedly hit a wave, tumbling the student in the Lake of the Ozarks.
Ellingson was reportedly wearing an improperly secured life vest that slipped off as soon as he fell.
The trooper jumped into the lake to save the detainee, but failed. He later admitted he was not trained enough to handle the situation.
Ellingson’s body was discovered the following day, nearly 70 feet below the water's surface.
The trooper, who is currently on an unpaid leave, remains employed by the department.
William Camm Seay, the prosecutor, reportedly asked the judge for a stricter punishment and also demanded his certification to be revoked.
However, all efforts were in vain.
“I wished we would have gotten what we asked for. It’s my hope he (Piercy) never ever serves as a law enforcement officer again. I’ve fulfilled my obligation but I feel like I have an obligation to the Ellingson family to see this out,” said Seay.
Craig Ellingson, the student’s father, was also disappointed at the level of punishment.
“Ten days is like a vacation. It’s a joke. … He knows he’s guilty and he’s damn lucky to get what he got,” he lamented.
The unfortunate father had a chance to speak to Piercy directly during the hearing.
“Anthony Piercy, it has been almost three-and-a-half years that I’ve waited to tell you face to face that you’re the reason why my son Brandon is dead. You had no compassion for my son,” he said as he burst into tears.
In his defense, Piercy said: “I apologize for the loss that I have caused the Ellingson family. I know that nothing that I will say will ease the pain that they are feeling. And I will never forget that I am the cause of that pain. I am truly sorry for that. Brandon should be here with them today. Thank you.”
Brandon Ellingson was 20 years old at the time of his death. He had graduated from Valley West High School in West Des Moines, Iowa, in 2012.