ST. LOUIS (KTVI) - It's just one of two big developments in the Missouri State Highway Patrol drowning investigation. A federal judge slapped the state with nearly $10,000 in fines and demanded the state turn over records by mid-November. And the Highway Patrol sergeant who blew the whistle on concerns over the drowning retired.
But Sgt. Randy Henry says he’ll continue to tell the truth about what happened.
In Thursday night’s edition of Fox Files, we showed you the evidence in the drowning death of 20-year-old Brandon Ellingson. He died after a state trooper handcuffed him on a boat. Blood tests showed he was three times the legal limit. Ellingson went overboard after the trooper traveled at high speeds on choppy water during the busy Memorial Day weekend on Lake of the Ozarks.
We demonstrated why the life jacket the trooper used that day was the wrong type – it came right off.
Fox 2 e-mailed Missouri Governor Jay Nixon’s office for answers and received no response. When Governor Nixon came to town for a news conference Thursday, he was asked why training was reduced after the merger of the state’s highway and water patrols.
“Well, I’m not going to comment on what the training is other than over the last couple years, as we merged the highway patrol and water patrol, we’ve done a lot of cross training and over the last year done a lot more of significant focus training,” Nixon said.
Governor Nixon also said they’ve reopened the training tank at Missouri Highway Patrol Headquarters.
We may only know about certain details surrounding Ellingson’s drowning because of Sgt. Henry, who brought his concerns to state investigators. He was then disciplined after being deposed by Ellingson’s family lawyers.
When pressed about the timing of Sgt. Henry’s demotion, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, who was with the governor at the news conference, interrupted.
“Excuse me, we’ll be happy, as far as I…What we want to do is we want to talk about the one thing and if there’s something else, we’re always open for questions, but right now we’re here to talk about the one thing,” Slay said.
Nixon laughed at Slay’s defense.
“Are you available for contractual work? There’s Tuesdays and Thursdays at the capital,” he said.
Nixon was asked if he’d be available for an additional question after the news conference. He nodded his head and Mayor Slay added, “I’m not trying to keep you from talking to him.”
A media handler later told Fox 2 News that the governor would not be available because he had to leave earlier. She explained that he was recovering from double knee surgery and could not stay.
Then it was another twist when we learned Sgt. Henry retired Friday after a complaint against him involving the Brandon Ellingson investigation was dropped. The Missouri State Highway Patrol still wants to discipline Henry. His attorney, Chet Pleban, said he's not surprised. Pleban claims this has always been about discrediting Sgt. Henry and protecting the state, which is being sued for millions by Brandon Ellingson's family.
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