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Appeals court ruling over trooper's termination upsets family of drowned man

Posted at 7:28 PM, Aug 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-21 20:41:54-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A father whose son drowned after falling off a Missouri State Highway Patrol boat while handcuffed is angry over an appeal court's ruling that overturned the trooper's firing.

Former Missouri State Highway Patrol Trooper Anthony Piercy was fired over the drowning death of Brandon Ellingson, a college student from Iowa who drowned in May 2014 at the Lake of the Ozarks.

A Missouri appeals court ruled this week that Piercy shouldn't have been fired, a decision that upset the victim's family.

"He shouldn't have his job," Craig Ellingson, Brandon's father told 41 Action News. "He should be in prison for what he did to my son."

Craig doesn't mince words about the trooper's actions.

"If he would have treated Brandon like one of his kids, Brandon would be here today," Craig said.

Brandon was 20 years old and enrolled at Arizona State when he died.

Piercy pleaded guilty to not properly securing Ellingson and was sentenced to 10 days in jail and two years of probation.

Piercy's boss at the time, Col. Sandra Karsten, terminated his employment.

"She went ahead and fired him full well knowing — she has legal counsel also — she knew she couldn't fire him," Craig said.

The Missouri Court of Appeals Western District ruled Karsten overstepped her authority in firing Piercy.

The Piercy appellate decision confirms our long-standing position that the colonel of the Highway Patrol cannot terminate a trooper unless a procedural hearing board first recommends termination as an appropriate consequence. This decision affirms the protections the Missouri legislature has afforded troopers. In the Piercy case, a board unanimously determined termination was not appropriate. That finding was not heeded, which led to litigation and, ultimately, the appellate decision. The underlying circumstances leading to Piercy’s termination grew from a tragic situation that continues to weigh heavily on all those involved. It is my hope that this decision leads to a speedy resolution of all litigation related to the Highway Patrol’s unlawful termination of Tony Piercy.
Tim Van Ronzelen, attorney for former MSHP Trooper Anthony Piercy

Piercy lost his peace officer's license in 2017 and twice has appealed to get it reinstated.

"What they underestimated is the fact that I went after his license ...," Craig said. "The case needs to be shut down and they need to dismiss it and Piercy needs to go away."

The former trooper has an appeals hearing regarding his peace officer's license early next month.

Brandon's father, Craig, plans to attend that hearing.