Weeks after being fired from the Missouri Highway Patrol, former trooper Anthony Piercy is fighting to get his job back.
According to a statewide digital database, Piercy — the trooper who was involved in the drowning case of Brandon Ellingson — filed a petition for judicial review on Dec. 29. The former trooper is suing the patrol and Col. Sandra Karsten in Cole County.
“It just never ends,” said Craig Ellingson, Brandon’s father, of Clive, Iowa. “I think they should throw it out. … Everybody’s in shock around here. Everybody’s pissed.”
Karsten, the patrol’s superintendent, determined on Dec. 15 that Piercy should be let go for his actions the day in May 2014 that a handcuffed Ellingson drowned in the Lake of the Ozarks.
When Karsten announced the dismissal last month, she said that a patrol review board had concluded Piercy had violated policies of the patrol and his actions deserved punishment. She told Ellingson’s father at the time that the final disciplinary decision was hers.
It was harsher than what the board had recommended. That panel had decided on Dec. 11 that Piercy should be reinstated to active duty and be transferred from his current troop assignment at the lake, according to the lawsuit.
The suit claims Karsten’s decision to terminate Piercy was “unlawful in that it exceeds the superintendent’s authority.” The lawsuit also claims that she had no “power to assess a discipline greater than the discipline recommended by the review board.”
Before he was fired, Piercy had been on unpaid administrative leave since he was criminally charged in December 2015. In his suit, he asks for attorney fees as well as “other relief as the court deems just.”
Jefferson City attorney Tim Van Ronzelen, who is representing Piercy, could not be reached for comment. A spokesman for the patrol did not respond to a request for comment.
Piercy pulled Ellingson over May 31, 2014, on the Lake of the Ozarks for suspicion of boating while intoxicated. During the stop, Piercy handcuffed the Iowa man’s hands behind his back. Witnesses told authorities that the trooper then stuffed an already-buckled life vest — the wrong one for a handcuffed person — over Brandon Ellingson’s head.
On the way to a field office for more testing, Piercy traveled at speeds of up to 46 mph. At one point, after the boat hit a wave, Ellingson was ejected. While in the water, his improperly secured life vest soon came off. Piercy eventually jumped in to try to save him, but couldn’t.
Avoiding a jury trial on involuntary manslaughter, Piercy pleaded guilty in June to misdemeanor negligent operation of a vessel. In September, Judge Roger Prokes sentenced Piercy to 10 days of shock time in the Morgan County jail and two years of supervised probation. Prokes also ordered him to complete 50 hours of community service.
In late 2016, the family received a $9 million settlement from the state and earlier won a lawsuit over records. A judge in that case ruled that the patrol knowingly and purposely violated the Sunshine Law by not handing over some information or delaying the release of other documents.
Brandon’s father said that Piercy has shown in this recent lawsuit that he refuses to take responsibility for what happened to his son. In one part of the lawsuit, Piercy’s attorney describes what happened the day the 20-year-old college student drowned.
According to the suit, when Ellingson “fell or jumped into the water Petitioner, despite his best efforts, was unable to retrieve him and the operator (Ellingson) drowned.”
GPS from Piercy’s patrol boat indicated that high speeds caused Ellingson to be ejected from the boat. The special prosecutor who charged Piercy has said there was no question that Ellingson was ejected.
“He was the sole reason Brandon died,” Ellingson told The Star Friday morning. “At the sentencing he said Brandon should still be here. And now he’s suing? It’s disrespectful.”