Special Reports

Tragedy on the water: Lake drowning


Before he ever boarded a patrol boat, Missouri Highway Patrol Trooper Anthony Piercy was known around the Lake of the Ozarks for nailing drunken drivers on the road.


After the 2011 merger of the Missouri Water Patrol into the Highway Patrol, Piercy volunteered to work the lake during peak boating season. Earlier this year, before starting his second summer on the water, he reportedly told others that supervisors had challenged him to be the first trooper to reach 20/20/20: 20 drug arrests in a year, along with 20 citations for driving while intoxicated and 20 for boating while intoxicated.

But the patrol never trained the 18-year veteran highway trooper to operate a Donzi powerboat, and work the water, the way it trained him to patrol the state’s roadways. Less than a week after Memorial Day, a young man from Iowa was dead and Piercy’s actions and judgments on the water were under scrutiny.

The Star battled for months to get Piercy’s complete training records and had to ask more than once for documentation of his field training. The newspaper recently obtained documents that show how little the patrol prepared Piercy before he began patrolling the lake by himself. Ultimately, after a handcuffed Brandon Ellingson drowned in his custody on May 31, Piercy himself admitted he hadn’t received enough training.

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