A Missouri Highway Patrol trooper has been charged with involuntary manslaughter more than 18 months after a man in his custody drowned with his hands cuffed behind his back. A special prosecutor says he decided to charge Trooper Anthony Piercy with "recklessly causing the death" of 20-year-old Brandon Ellingson after reviewing "boxes and boxes" of evidence, reports the Kansas City Star. Witnesses said that after Ellingson's May 31, 2014 arrest for boating while intoxicated on the Lake of the Ozarks, Piercy handcuffed him and placed a life vest over his torso, the Des Moines Register reports. Ellingson drowned after the life vest came off when he somehow went into the water as the trooper tried to transport him to shore in a speedboat traveling at around 40mph.
Piercy, 44, eventually went into the water but couldn't save Ellingson, whose body was recovered the next day. Recently retired Patrol Sergeant Randy Henry, who spoke to Piercy that night, has been speaking out about the case, saying he believes there has been a cover-up of mistakes in the case to shield officials from criticism over the merger of the Highway Patrol and the state's Water Patrol. He believe a lack of training, and Piercy's delay in jumping into the water after Ellingson, contributed to the death. "I think his failure to jump in immediately was cowardice," Henry tells the Star. "If I threw somebody out and he was handcuffed and I see the life vest come off, you jump in now. You go in immediately."