Randy Henry: State Trooper Demoted After Speaking Out About Death Of Handcuffed Student

Randy Henry is a veteran Missouri State Trooper with 29 years patrolling Lake of the Ozarks. He has been a member of the water patrol on the lake there. He also served five years in the United States Coast Guard, so he knows a thing or two about water safety.

But when Henry (pictured above left) criticized the training of another trooper, whose mistakes allegedly led to the death of 20-year-old Brandon Ellingson last year, Henry suddenly found himself punished by his department.

On Wednesday, they knocked his rank down from sergeant to corporal and transferred him out of Lake of the Ozarks after nearly three decades of service there. The punishment was laid down just a few days after Henry, who had already spoken out in front of a state house committee about the shoddy training given to water officers who patrol the lake, gave a sworn deposition in a civil suit brought by Ellingson’s family.

Ellingson (pictured above right), an honors student and high school football star from West Des Moines, Iowa, was arrested on May 31 of 2014 by Trooper Anthony Piercy, who accused the young man of operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol. Piercy immediately handcuffed Ellingson’s hands behind his back and began to transport the suspect by boat to a nearby police station where he planned to administer a breathalyzer test.

But when Piercy pulled a lifejacket over Ellingson’s head and shoulders, he failed to fasten it properly.

On the way to the station, Piercy’s boat — motoring along at 40 miles per hour — hit rough water caused by the wake from another boat. Piercy’s boat rocked violently and Ellingson was thrown overboard.

His unsecured lifejacket slipped off after he hit the water, and with his hands cuffed behind his back, Ellingson could not swim or even keep his head above water. He sank 60 feet to the bottom of the lake, where his body was found later.

Henry was assigned to investigate what had happened. He found not only that Piercy and other troopers recently transferred from highway patrol to police the lake had received skimpy and rushed training, he also later testified that Piercy changed his story about what happened to Ellingson over time.

The Missouri State Police declined to comment on the demotion of Randy Henry, who thanks to his transfer will now need to move from the home where he has lived for 19 years, calling it a “personnel issue.”

But Henry’s lawyer says he knows exactly what happened.

“That discipline is the result of the Patrol’s effort to silence and discredit Sgt. Henry in connection with his claim of a cover up in connection with that investigation.”

Pleban also denounced the demotion and transfer of Randy Henry as “malicious and vindictive retaliation.”

[Image: Missouri House Communications, KCCI-TV]