JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A Missouri state trooper who was fired after he was convicted of a misdemeanor in the drowning death of a handcuffed Iowa man is suing to get his job back.
Anthony Piercy filed a petition last week for judicial review in Missouri’s Cole County. The lawsuit claims Missouri State Highway Patrol Col. Sandra Karsten overstepped her authority in firing Piercy, KQFX-TV reports.
Piercy pulled 20-year-old Brandon Ellingson over on the Lake of the Ozarks for suspicion of boating while intoxicated in May 2014. He was taking Ellingson, who was from the Des Moines suburb of Clive, for a breath test when the Arizona State University student tumbled into the water. Piercy had put a Type III, ski-vest style of life jacket on Ellingson instead of a Type I or Type II life jacket with straps that go around the torso. Witnesses have said that Ellingson’s arms weren’t in the life jacket’s arm holes and that the safety device came off when he went into the water.
Patrol Lt. Paul Reinsch told The Associated Press he couldn’t comment on personnel issues.
Piercy pleaded guilty to negligent operation of a vessel in June for using the wrong type of life jacket. Judge Roger Prokes sentenced Piercy to two years of supervised probation and 10 days in jail.
According to the lawsuit, a patrol personnel board recommended that Piercy be allowed to come back to the patrol and recommended he be transferred out of the area serving most of mid-Missouri and the Lake of the Ozarks. The board decided that Piercy had violated state law and two internal patrol rules, one unrelated to Ellingson’s drowning.
Karsten fired Piercy. The lawsuit said the superintendent can only fire a patrol member if a majority of the board recommends it. The lawsuit also calls for the patrol to pay Piercy for the time spent on leave.
Karsten wrote that other law enforcement officials had concerns about continuing to work with Piercy.
An employee review in 2014 from Piercy’s rating supervisor said that the trooper “‘should make safety a higher priority,'” according to Karsten’s memo. The lawsuit claims Karsten relied too heavily on Piercy’s commanding officer in making her decision, violating his rights to due process.
Information from: St. Joseph News-Press/St. Joe, Missouri, http://www.newspressnow.com