KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Missouri State Highway Patrol records raise questions about the training of a trooper who had a suspect drown while in custody.
Trooper Anthony Piercy was transporting Brandon Ellingson from the Lake of the Ozarks on suspicion of boating while intoxicated May 31 when the 20-year-old went into the water. Witnesses have said Piercy placed Ellingson in life jacket but that the suspect's arms weren't in the arm holes. The device came off when Ellingson went into the water.
Piercy jumped in the water but couldn't save Ellingson, who grew up near West Des Moines, Iowa, and was a student at Arizona State University. His death was ruled accidental.
After the Missouri Water Patrol merged with the Highway Patrol in 2011, troopers like Piercy, who primarily patrol the state's roads, began working the lake during peak boating season. But those troopers received a fraction of the water-based training they would have received before the merger, The Kansas City Star reported.
Piercy testified in September during a coroner's inquest that he lacked training to handle the situation.
The newspaper, which obtained Piercy's training records through a Sunshine Law request, said Piercy took a test that required him to swim for 12 minutes and had no minimum standard and no pass/fail. In the past, veterans say, the Water Patrol required extensive swimming, culminating in a test that included at least 15 minutes of treading water, a timed test in clothes and a drill that called for them to dive and retrieve a weighted object.
Piercy also was cleared for "solo boat time" in June 2013 after two days of field training, in which those new to water patrol learn alongside seasoned marine operations officers. Before the merger, Water Patrol recruits were required to receive at least two months of field training.
"That's totally insane," said retired Maj. Jody Hughes, who spent 30 years with the Water Patrol. "You're not going to learn how to drive a boat, learn your area and the equipment or anything."
A patrol spokesman confirmed Friday that the records provided to the newspaper showed just two days of field training. But the patrol sent an email Saturday saying Piercy also was involved in a "modified training phase" during the summer 2013, in which he had additional shifts over three months with experienced marine operations officers.
Lawmakers have been discussed trooper training in the wake of the drowning.