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Former trooper who criticized patrol custody death at the lake sues MSHP leaders

Former trooper files lawsuit against highway patrol

MILLER COUNTY, mo - The former Missouri state trooper who says he was unfairly punished after criticizing the Highway Patrol is now suing patrol leaders.

Randy Henry tells ABC 17 News he filed a federal lawsuit against patrol leaders today.

This lawsuit comes after Henry criticized the agency after the death of Brandon Ellingson.

ABC 17 News has followed this story since 20-year-old Ellingson died in May of 2014. Ellingson died after falling off another trooper's boat while he was handcuffed, before slipping out of a life jacket while in custody of the patrol for suspicion of boating while intoxicated.

"The highway patrol, and I was part of the highway patrol, we killed their kid," Henry told ABC 17 News. "They deserve to know the truth about what happened from start to finish and any events that led to it before hand."

Henry was not the one who took Ellingson into custody before his death, but talked to the trooper who did, Anthony Piercy, that night about what went wrong after his arrest.

After speaking out against the patrol's handling of the incident, Henry was demoted to a corporal and then forced to move from the Lake of the Ozarks to the Truman Lake area after nearly 30 years of service.

The federal lawsuit names the current highway patrol superintendent Col. Bret Johnson, a highway patrol captain, a highway patrol corporal and requests a jury trial over accusations spelled out in it.

It accuses these people of violating Henry's first amendment right to free speech, violating his right to a due process hearing before a reduction of his rank, conspiring to violate Henry's civil rights, tortious inference with a business expectancy, and of trying to discredit Henry as a witness in another lawsuit.

It also accuses the highway patrol superintendent of failing to properly supervise employees therefore causing the other violations.

There are several specific examples listed in the lawsuit. 

First, the lawsuit alleged highway patrol leaders told Henry to lie in his testimony in front of a special house committee.

"I was ordered to testify to something that wasn't truthful," Henry said. "They wanted to say that the training was sufficient and adequate. I said I'm not gonna say that."

Highway patrol officials then told Henry not to testify, but he refused, according to the lawsuit.

Second, the lawsuit claimed the patrol purposely tried to cover up Henry's story by stopping a tape recorder when he told investigators his account.

"I wanted to be completely transparent on what we talked about that night out there in the water, that's when the tape recorder got shut off and I'll allege that the tape even got garbled," Henry said. "Well why did it get garbled? I know what I said. I said the word manslaughter. They didn't want to hear that."

Third, patrol leaders tried other ways of intimidating Henry into backing down like having him psychologically tested twice, demoting him and relocating him and his family, according to the lawsuit.

Henry told ABC 17 News knowing Ellingson's family deserved to know the truth is what kept him from backing down.

"There's not a day that goes by I don't think about it," Henry said. "I've tried to live my live and move on, but this is something, this is a life event."

ABC 17 News reached out to highway patrol headquarters for a response to the lawsuit. Officials there told ABC 17 News they were not able to comment on pending litigation.


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