KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri Highway Patrol trooper expressed concerns in a call to a supervisor that he might have made mistakes after a handcuffed Iowa man drowned while in custody, according to newly released records.
The Kansas City Star reported that it obtained a video recording of the call from the patrol last week as part of a massive records release. The release came after jurors in a coroner’s inquest ruled this month that the death of 20-year-old Brandon Ellingson was accidental and a special prosecutor decided several days later that Trooper Anthony Piercy wouldn’t face criminal charges.
Ellingson, who grew up around West Des Moines, Iowa, and had just finished his sophomore year at Arizona State University, went into the water May 31 as Piercy was transporting him from the Lake of the Ozarks on suspicion of boating while intoxicated. Witnesses have said that Eillingson’s arms weren’t in the life jacket’s arm holes and that the safety device slipped off.
Among the items the patrol released are conversations that were captured on cameras from patrol boats that responded to the scene. Toward the end of the conversation with the supervisor, Piercy apologized and said that he “probably did a bunch of things wrong there.”
The recently released records also raise questions about the speed of Piercy’s boat. A sergeant told investigators that Piercy reported he was traveling between 30 and 35 mph. A report of the boat’s GPS coordinates, which was obtained by The Star, showed Piercy was going 39.1 to 43.7 mph just before Ellingson went overboard.
In the videotaped conversation, Piercy said he slowed to about 10 mph as his boat met two large waves from another vessel. He said Ellingson went overboard after the first wave. The corporal who wrote the boating accident report listed the operator’s estimated speed as 10 mph.
A patrol re-enactment of the conditions on Piercy’s boat was captured on video and shows the lead investigator, positioned where Ellingson was on May 31, being rocked in his seat as the speed increased to a maximum of 38 to 40 mph. The investigator gripped a pole with his right hand and even braced himself once with his left hand.
Ellingson’s father, Craig Ellingson, met with Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad last week and is pushing for federal authorities to look into the patrol’s investigation. Craig Ellingson and his lawyer hope to speak with senators soon.
“The Department of Justice can still come in and review it and make recommendations and there’s a possibility it can be referred to the U.S. attorney’s office,” said Des Moines attorney Matt Boles, who is representing Ellingson’s estate and family. “I do not believe at this point that anyone can definitively say this is done.”
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