A man from Iowa died while in the custody of a state police trooper. The man, 20 year old Brandon Ellingston, was arrested for suspicion of boating while intoxicated. The man was not given a Breathalyzer Test before being placed in custody. His hands were handcuffed behind his back.
The trooper placed Mr. Ellingston in his patrol boat and was operating the boat when Ellingston either jumped or fell overboard. Mr. Ellingston was allegedly wearing a life vest, however, the vest somehow came off him. Mr. Ellingston was unable to stay above the water due to being hand cuffed. The trooper attempted to rescue him, and his life vest came off. Mr. Ellingston could not grab ahold of a safety ring due him being handcuffed. Mr. Ellingston went under another time and the trooper apparently could not find him.
There are questions as to why Mr. Ellingston was handcuffed in the first place. Furthermore, the patrol boats are not equipped with any type of safety belts. Lastly, the patrol boats are operated by only one trooper who is responsible for both operation of the boat and to watch after detainees in custody.
The state trooper has been placed on paid administrative leave pending a complete investigation. The family will have a potential wrongful death claim against the state agency. It appears this is a clear case of negligence by the state agency who was in control of Mr. Ellingston when he drowned.
If you have a family member or a loved one who passed away while in the custody of another, you should speak with an experienced attorney such as Attorney Michael Smith at the Law Office of Michael O. Smith to see if there is a potential for a wrongful death claim.