- Associated Press - Thursday, May 12, 2016

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A civil lawsuit accusing Missouri State Highway Patrol officials of violating the civil rights of an Iowa man who drowned in handcuffs can go to trial, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

U.S. District Judge Nanette K. Laughrey also ruled that a jury can consider allegations that Trooper Anthony Piercy violated Brandon Ellingson’s civil rights. Piercy arrested Ellingson on May 31, 2014, for boating while intoxicated at the Lake of the Ozarks and was taking him to a patrol zone office when Ellingson drowned.

Witnesses said Piercy didn’t property secure a life jacket on Ellingson, whose life vest came off shortly after he went into the water. Piercy jumped into the water but was unable to save Ellingson.

Ellingson’s family, of suburban Des Moines, filed the civil lawsuit in December 2014 against the Missouri Highway Patrol, patrol leaders and Piercy. Their lawsuit came three months after a jury in a Morgan County coroner’s inquest found that Ellingson’s death was an accident.

Special Prosecutor William Camm Seay charged Piercy in December with involuntary manslaughter. That criminal case is scheduled for later this year.

In the federal civil lawsuit, Piercy’s lawyers from the Missouri attorney general’s office argued he should be shielded by immunity regarding the allegation that he violated Ellingson’s civil rights. But Laughrey denied that, saying the court found it “beyond debate” that when the state takes custody of someone, it assumes some responsibility for that person’s safety.

The judge said Piercy handcuffed Ellingson behind his back, limiting his ability to protect himself on a boat ride. She said the trooper then secured Ellingson in a flotation device that wouldn’t keep him afloat and put him against a “flipped-up” seat and then “drove across the lake at a speed that could dislodge a person.”

After the 2011 merger of the Missouri Water Patrol and the highway patrol, road troopers helped out on the water. Piercy was a road trooper who received only two days of field training before he worked on the lake alone, The Kansas City Star reported (http://j.mp/1NrZFlH ). Since Ellingson’s death, road troopers no longer patrol the lake alone.

A patrol spokesman declined to comment Thursday because of the pending litigation. Nanci Gonder, a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, also declined to comment.

A trial is scheduled for October in federal court in Jefferson City.

___

Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide