The termination does not affect Piercy's Peace Officer Standards and Training license, which Ellingson said is a separate effort currently being undertaken.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol has fired Anthony Piercy, the former trooper who pled guilty to a misdemeanor in the drowning death of a college student in 2014, the victim’s father confirmed.
Craig Ellingson was informed of the decision last Friday by MSHP Superintendent Colonel Sandra K. Karsten via email. Ellingson shared the correspondence with the Lake Sun following a telephone interview on Monday.
“On December 11, 2017, I convened a Procedural Hearing Board to conduct a hearing related to administrative charges brought against Trooper Anthony C. Piercy. The charges brought against Trooper Piercy are directly related to the death of your son, Brandon Ellingson,” the email stated. “The board concluded that Trooper Piercy violated the policies of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, and that his actions warranted discipline.”
The final decision of Piercy’s employment rested with Karsten, who was appointed Superintendent on March 9, 2017. The MSHP confirmed Piercy had been terminated on Friday. He had been on unpaid administrative leave after receiving an initial suspension of five days.
“Therefore, I am informing you Trooper Piercy’s employment with the Missouri State Highway Patrol was terminated effective December 15, 2017,” the correspondence concluded.
Ellingson said he filed a complaint against Piercy and Troop F Lieutenant Darewin L. Clardy in October, but was unaware the board hearing had been convened. He was unsure of the status of the complaint against Clardy. The termination does not affect Piercy’s Peace Officer Standards and Training license, which Ellingson said is a separate effort currently being undertaken.
“It’s just unfortunate that we had to go through all of this to get to the bottom of this. If Clardy would have done his job, Piercy wouldn’t have been on the water and Brandon would still be here,” Ellingson said. “Lt. Clardy - he needs to be punished, he needs to be fired too. He was the direct supervisor on the water.”
Ellingson said he believes Clardy needs to be held responsible as Piercy's supervisor on the water at the time. He referenced the minimal training the trooper had received for water operations, and despite that, still received approval to be out that evening.
"He was only supposed to go from Point A to Point B," Ellingson said. "He was only supposed to be seen."
Ellingson mentioned the communication sent by former MSHP trooper Randy Henry, who is currently suing the MSHP in a federal civil lawsuit, to Clardy cautioning him that Piercy was not adequately trained to be out on a peak boating weekend at night and alone.
In November 2016, the State of Missouri announced it settled a federal civil lawsuit with the Ellingson family for the amount of $9 million for the wrongful death of Brandon, who drowned while in Piercy’s custody after being ejected from a MSHP vessel while being transported on suspicion of boating while intoxicated. Piercy had incorrectly placed a life jacket on the handcuffed Ellingson which fell off in the water.
In June 2017, Piercy pled guilty to a lesser crime of negligent operation of a vessel, a Class B misdemeanor in Morgan County Circuit Court, after initially being charged with the Class C felony of first degree involuntary manslaughter.
At the sentencing hearing in September 2017, Judge Martin Prokes ordered Piercy to complete 50 hours of community service, a suspended execution of sentence of 180 days with two years supervised probation and 10 days of shock jail time.
On May 31, 2014, at approximately 5:23 p.m., Brandon Ellingson and several friends from Iowa were pulled over by Piercy as they were leaving Coconuts Bar & Grill in Craig’s boat. Piercy pulled the vessel over regarding an expired registration tag and a report of littering.
Brandon, who was studying business administration at Arizona State University with plans to join his father’s business upon graduation, was at the Lake of the Ozarks for summer vacation as the family had done for years.
Piercy, the lone officer on the patrol vessel, quickly established probable cause to place Ellingson under arrest in MSHP custody on suspicion of boating while intoxicated and began transporting Brandon to a stationary office a couple of miles away from the arrest location for a breathalyzer test.
A toxicology report conducted in St. Louis on June 2 showed a blood-alcohol content level of 0.268 and a small trace of cocaine. However, a blood sample taken from Brandon on June 1 by MSHP showed no evidence of cocaine and a blood-alcohol level of 0.23, Ellingson said.
The fact that Ellingson's body was underwater for more than 18 hours could have also affected the toxicology results due to the breakdown of liver enzymes. As much as two-percentage points, Craig said.
"The first blood draw was 0.23 - they didn't want to report that," Ellingson said. "There was no trace of cocaine in that first draw."
Approximately three days after Brandon had died, he was still handcuffed until they were taken off for the autopsy to be conducted, Ellingson said.
"They left him handcuffed for three days," he said. "It sucks."
The longtime road trooper, who had recently been assigned to work on the waters of Lake of the Ozarks, improperly placed a Type-III life-jacket on Ellingson after handcuffing his arms behind his back. Patrol had recommended using Type I or II life-jackets.
Traveling up to speeds of 43.7 miles per hour, Ellingson was ejected after striking a wake, at which time Piercy slowed the vessel and attempted to grab him using his hands and then a pole.
When Ellingson’s life-jacket slipped off, Piercy jumped in and attempted to rescue him, grabbing him at one point but being unable to hold on to Brandon before he sank and Piercy returned to the surface, exhausted from the struggle.
Brandon’s body was located the next day in approximately 80 feet of water near the 3.5-mile marker near Mill Creek. In an audio and video recording with a supervisor taken on another MSHP vessel approximately an hour after the incident, Piercy was apparently concerned with how he handled the incident.
Piercy said the video camera was recording, but had no SD card and therefore was not saving any data. He would later give different versions of what happened when he realized the issue.
“Well I’m sorry I probably did a bunch of things wrong there,” Piercy said at one point. “I guess keep me posted on if I’m going to be employed or what’s going on.”