(KTVI) – Powerful words from a Highway Patrol whistleblower. Sgt. Randy Henry opened up about the drowning death of Brandon Ellingson, who drowned Memorial Day weekend in 2014.
Sgt. Henry recently announced his retirement, which will become official in December.
He told us today, ‘We killed as an agency, we killed Brandon Ellingson. Are my hands in that? Yes, I was part of the agency. I was a supervisor at Lake of the Ozarks. I was a supervisor who signed off on Piercy to work the water.’
Sgt. Henry says he approved Trooper Tony Piercy to work the water after Missouri Governor Jay Nixon merged Water Patrol with Highway Patrol.
Henry said, ‘I was pressured. It was my mistake. I should`ve not done it, but I was being pressured because we were having boat races and they said the only thing he has to be able to do is navigate on the water.’
After 20-year old Brandon Ellingson drowned, Henry said trooper Piercy called him. Henry described the call saying, ‘I told him Tony, I`m working now, I`m going to ask you questions that you may not like. He said I don`t care, I just need to explain what happened. At the time I`d been working Lake of the Ozarks for 29 years. I`d worked more than one boating accident so I knew what to ask him. The questions that I asked him were very damning questions.’
Henry says Piercy told him he handcuffed 20-year old on suspicion of boating drunk, then put a ski type life jacket on him. He said Piercy described hitting a giant wake that sent Ellingson overboard. The ski jacket popped off since Ellingson did not have his arms in the jacket. We demonstrated in a Fox Files report, how the proper lifejacket might work with someone who cannot use their arms.
Sgt. Henry said the Highway Patrol did not want him to write a report. He said, ‘I knew right then the fix is in.’
Highway Patrol investigators recorded Henry’s concerns, but shut it down after you could hear on the recording, ‘They`re going to want full transparency on this thing so did you ask ourselves, did he use the highest degree of care here?’
I asked Sgt. Henry, ‘Was that a coincidence that the recorder went off at about that time?’
Henry: ‘No, that was deliberate because I also said the word manslaughter.’
It wasn`t the only time he said the patrol tried to silence him. Henry added, ‘My testimony at the first legislative hearing almost didn`t happen.’ He criticized training to legislators after he said his superiors told him to say training was ‘adequate and sufficient.’ Henry said, ‘I told him I`m not going to say that and about that time she comes out and I told her the same thing and she said `you`ll do what you`re told.` I said no I won`t.’
Sgt. Henry faced discipline and transfer, until he decided to retire. Now he wants the State of Missouri to create an independent criminal investigations bureau to help keep politics from obstructing the truth.
He explained, ‘It`s part of our job. We`re all human. We all mess up. Anybody who says we never messed up, they`re lying. The truth, it hurts and when we kill somebody in custody the family deserves to know the full truth, not just bits and pieces of the truth that we want to release.’
Sgt. Henry remains a state employee until his official retirement date in December. He adds that neither prosecutor has interviewed him., not the first one who declined prosecution and not the second one who`s reviewing the case now.
I did not get a response from the Missouri Highway Patrol when I called to ask for a comment.