Editor’s Note: This letter is in response to Hank Zieman’s opinion piece printed in the July 6, 2018 Lake Sun regarding the death of Brandon Ellingson. 

While, I think, we can all agree that the death of this young man was a tragedy and that the state patrolman made mistakes that contributed to this drowning, let’s also be clear that blame should not just be pointed at this officer. After reading Mr. Zieman’s opinions on the aftermath of this accident, one would come to the conclusion that Officer Piercy is totally to blame and got away virtually scot free. What Mr. Zieman does not mention is Brandon Ellingson’s role in this tragedy. I am not an expert on the laws, but I would guess this young man broke at least two laws - underage drinking and operating a boat while under the influence (a toxicology report cited in news reporting showed Ellingson’s blood-alcohol level at 0.268 - more than three times the legal limit). Many lives, including the patrolman and Brandon’s family, have been changed because of what happened. Officer Piercy made some bad decisions that led to the death of this young man, but he is not the only one who made bad decisions that day. NONE OF THIS WOULD HAVE HAPPENED if Mr. Ellingson had not CHOSEN to break the law. 

-Michael Hayes, Sunrise Beach