MO Pays $9 Million in Drowning Death of Handcuffed Boater

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The state of Missouri will pay $9 million to the family of an Iowa college student who drowned in handcuffs while in the custody of a state trooper at the Lake of the Ozarks in May 2014, reports the Kansas City Star. The settlement, announced Thursday, ends a federal civil court lawsuit by Brandon Ellingson’s family. It is the largest wrongful-death settlement paid by the state since at least 2004. The family alleged that Trooper Anthony Piercy, the state and the Missouri Highway Patrol were liable for Brandon’s death in the Lake of the Ozarks. Piercy had arrested Ellingson, 20, for boating while intoxicated. The trooper is on unpaid leave and faces criminal charges of involuntary manslaughter.

Ellingson and a group of friends from Clive, Iowa, had gone to the lake for the weekend, and they were heading back to his family’s lake house. Piercy, a 19-year police veteran who had only two hours of training in water enforcement, arrested Ellingson for boating while intoxicated, cuffed his hands behind his back and improperly placed a life vest over the young man’s shoulders. Piercy was taking Ellingson to a police office at speeds up to 46 mph when the young man was ejected from the patrol boat. The life vest came off, and Piercy eventually jumped in the water to try to save Ellingson, but failed.

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