A retiring state trooper who calls himself a whistleblower said he will testify if asked to in a federal suit against Missouri brought by the family of an Iowa man who drowned while in a trooper’s custody last year.
Brandon Ellingson drowned after a Water Patrol trooper handcuffed him and improperly put a life jacket on him on Memorial Day, 2014. Retiring trooper Randy Henry says Ellingson’s death was the result of the 2011 merger of the Water and Highway patrols. He had been critical of the merger and took that criticism public after Ellingson’s death.
Henry was facing an internal complaint and demotion, but the complaint was withdrawn late last month. He then retired before hearings in his appeal of that demotion.
Henry said he was being demoted in retaliation for his whistleblowing. The Jefferson City News Tribune reported the Patrol accused Henry of misconduct for obtaining information from a 2013 investigation, leaking it, lying about it, and instructing another person to lie about what he knew.
Henry told Missourinet he could not comment on how the disciplinary situation was resolved, except to say it has been resolved. He claimed his attorney was going to be prevented from calling witnesses to support his position.
“We knew that we were going to lose and I was prepared to take it to the circuit court and appeal it when we did lose,” said Henry. “They knew that and I’m sure that’s one of the reasons why they cancelled the hearing because they knew they would lose it in the circuit court. We were confident of that.”
As for the merger, Henry alleges the patrol, Governor Jay Nixon, and Attorney General Chris Koster are involved in a cover-up following Ellingson’s death because, he said, it was a result of the merger. Henry said he thought there was a cover-up beginning when he was told he didn’t need to write a report on the drowning, even after talking to Trooper Anthony Piercy, the trooper who had taken Ellingson into custody, about the incident.
“When I’m not requested to do a report when I’m responsible for his training and I interviewed him in-depth that night without doing a report, I knew the fix was in,” said Henry. “You wouldn’t do any other type of investigation that way.”
Henry said he would make himself available in the federal suit filed against Missouri by the Ellingson family.
“I will make myself available for all court proceedings. Whether I’m going to be deposed again or not I don’t know, but obviously if this goes to trial I will be a cooperating witness for the Ellingson family.”
Henry’s retirement is effective next month.
The Attorney General’s Office, the Governor’s Office and the Patrol declined a request for comment on this story.
The Attorney General’s office was recently fined $9,500 because attorneys for the Patrol failed to comply with a court order to release agency e-mails related to the Ellingson family’s lawsuit.