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The Lake News Online
  • Coroner's inquest may shed light on Brandon Ellingson drowning

  • A coroner's inquest into the death of a 20-year-old college student while in the custody of a Missouri Highway Patrol trooper will be heard by a jury of Morgan County residents.
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  • A coroner's inquest into the death of a 20-year-old college student while in the custody of a Missouri Highway Patrol trooper will be heard by a jury of Morgan County residents.
    It will be the first opportunity for some light to be shed on the of the investigation into the death of Brandon Ellingson, of Clive, Iowa. Questioned of how and why Ellingson ended up in 80 feet of water near the 3.5-mile marker of the Gravois Arm on Lake of the Ozarks have not been answered by the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
    The inquest is scheduled for Sept. 4 at the Morgan County Courthouse. The proceedings are open to the public.
    Ellingson's body was recovered on June 1 after he went overboard while being transported by Trooper Tony Piercy during the early evening hours of May 31.
    Morgan County Coroner MB Jones called for the inquest to remove his office and himself personally from any potential conflicts. Any time a someone dies while in custody of law enforcement, Jones said, there are questions. In this particular case, Jones said he has known Piercy for years and didn't feel like he should be making a judgment in the case.
    Added to that, Jones said there has been a fairly lengthy investigation into Ellingson's death by the highway patrol.
    Jones said six jurors have been selected from the court clerk's jury pool. The jurors will convene on Sept. 4 to hear evidence in the case. It will be up to those jurors to issue a decision on how Ellingson died and if there was a crime and/or negligence involved.
    Officials with the highway patrol have declined to release investigative answer questions about what happened on May 31 when Brandon Ellingson drowned after being handcuffed and being placed in a life jacket. The coroner's inquest may shed light and provide at least some answers to what may have happened.
    In response to a Missouri Sunshine Law request filed by the Lake Sun, the highway patrol has declined to provide documents related to the investigation report. The investigation was handled by the Missouri Highway Patrol Division of Drug and Crime Control. The DDCC is the investigative branch of the Criminal Investigation Bureau of the highway patrol.
    Ellingson was placed under arrest on suspicion of Boating While Intoxicated on May 31 following a routine stop. Ellingson was handcuffed behind his back, placed on a Water Division boat and was being taken to the shore when the incident occurred. The lifejacket the arresting officer had placed on him came off once he went in the water. The original accident report said Ellingson fell or jumped overboard.
    Ellingson, a college student from Clive, Iowa, was attending Arizona State University at the time of his death. Ellingson was spending the weekend at the lake with friends at his family's lake home. Ellingson and his friends were on a boat owned by his father.
    Page 2 of 2 - Ellingson had not been given an official breathalyzer. Those are done once the arresting officer and the subject are on land. In Ellingson's case, he was being transported from near Coconuts on the Gravois Arm to H. Toads Entertainment and Yacht Club at the 7-mile marker on the main channel where the highway patrol has an office. The drowning was in Morgan County, giving the coroner's office jurisdiction.
    According to the information released when the incident occurred, at one point prior to Ellingson going overboard, he allegedly stood up on the boat. Piercy allegedly told him to sit down. Ellingson then allegedly walked to the back of the boat and went overboard.
    Attempts by the officer to rescue Ellingson were unsuccessful.
    Standard procedure for transporting a suspect on the water is for a lifejacket to be put on first and then handcuffs. Under normal circumstances, officers will place the suspect on the seat next to them for transport.
    Ellingson was wearing a Level 3 type of life vest with three snaps on the front. Questions regarding if it was fastened correctly and how it came off in the water were part of the investigation and have not been clarified by the highway patrol.
    Piercy was the only officer on the boat. He has been with the Missouri Highway Patrol for 18 years and was trained to work on the water in March 2013. The highway patrol has declined to provide the training standards and protocols for officers assigned to the water patrol division.
    Piercy normally works on the road but was placed on the water that particular weekend since the water division expected large crowds. He was placed on administrative leave, pending the outcome of an internal investigation. He was back on duty by June 10.

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