Reported by TheDesMoinesRegister
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will personally review information about the death of Brandon Ellingson at Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks while he was in police custody, Republican U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa said Friday.
“I’m sure you agree that whenever an individual’s death is alleged to have been caused by federal or state law enforcement officers, the matter deserves a thorough, independent investigation, including by federal authorities if necessary and appropriate,” Grassley wrote in a letter to Holder on Friday.
In a news release, Grassley said the attorney general told him that he would review the information before providing it to staff attorneys at the U.S. Justice Department.
Ellingson, 20, of Clive was detained on suspicion of boating while intoxicated May 31. He drowned in the lake while handcuffed and in the custody of a Missouri state trooper.
A jury ruled the death an accident during a coroner’s inquest in September.
Ellingson’s parents have filed two federal lawsuits accusing the Missouri State Highway Patrol of negligence, claiming the arresting officer improperly secured a life vest on Ellingson, then drove the patrol boat at a “dangerously high speed,” which ejected the young man into the water. The life vest came off moments later.
Grassley said he has spoken with Ellingson’s family and their attorney about the case and told them that he would forward to the attorney general any information they provided. He did so Friday.
“According to some reports in the media, there continue to be important unanswered questions about, among other things, whether the officer involved in his arrest was properly trained for water safety, whether he gave Brandon a floatation device that was appropriate for an individual in handcuffs, whether the speed of the police boat and Brandon’s positioning on the boat caused him to fall into the water, and whether all efforts were made to save Brandon’s life afterward,” Grassley wrote in the letter to Holder.
“In addition, questions persist in the media about whether Missouri officials conducted a thorough and impartial investigation into Brandon’s death.”
Grassley asked Holder to give materials provided to him by an attorney for Ellingson’s family “all due consideration and expect that you will call forth the full authority and resources of the Department to investigate whether any federal civil or criminal laws were violated.”