Giving Voice to a Boy Silenced: #JusticeforBrandonEllingson

Giving voice to a boy silenced

Brandon Ellingson, native of Clive, IA and Arizona State student murdered on the Lake of the Ozarks.

Brandon Ellingson, native of Clive, IA and Arizona State student murdered on the Lake of the Ozarks.

As many know my family and I witnessed a portion of the Ellingson tragedy. The drowning death of a boy in the custody of the Water Patrol. Our names have popped up in numerous articles across the state and even parts of the nation. Most of the articles included
very few facts that we, or other witnesses, disclosed then moved on to describe the event based solely upon the findings disclosed at the charade of an inquest. There are some that even attempt to paint my family and I as unsympathetic to the officer.

In light of this I am inclined to set the record straight. Our motivation to speak out is based simply on a presumed moral obligation to do so. Any lack of sympathy is no more than
the results of actually witnessing the events take place first hand. This case has far reaching implications that every citizen should take very serious and they are far more important than myself or any other individual involved. This is about the loss of the life of a human being under very questionable circumstances. Making permanently dark the light of a soul, of a boy that very well could have been any given parent’s pride, joy and future. A light forever extinguished under circumstances that include the actions of a person entrusted to protect us all wielding the power to make judgment on our every action. Power and trust that must not be taken lightly.

When initially giving testimony to the Patrol we could only assume that they had been reviewing the footage from the multiple cameras on the vessel and already knew in explicit detail exactly what we had described. It was somewhat relieving to know that the world was
eventually going to see the events as they had played out before our eyes and they would then share in our horror but that didn’t happen. A simple misplaced few dollar memory card gave way for the story to be told only through the eyes of the investigators seemingly blessed with such intuition they were able to piece the entire event together without the aid or acknowledgement of eye witness testimony, their own GPS data or even the video footage that actually survived. We
only wish it was as easy for us to forget what we saw as it was for them to so flippantly disregard.

Throughout the entire course of the investigation there was a single phrase among many that really irritated me. The relentless repetition of “he stood up and either fell or jumped in”. Though I was baffled as to the origin of this description of the event because my wife and son had clearly seen them both standing just prior to the incident I still maintained confidence that perhaps the video had disclosed some chain of events that gave birth to this dubious statement.

When the inquest finally took place and the investigative findings were disclosed our hearts sank. There was a vast difference between our eye witness account and the Patrol’s findings. We attempted to inform the public that they were being deceived through the press.
The article prompted many conversations among friends and colleagues. Instinctively, time and time again, I heard people say “the kid should have never stood up” like it was the newest hot product jingle. It was only then that I understood the true motive behind the official’s need to repeat those 9 simple words over and over to the media. It was not a factual statement nor was it founded or based on any event that had actually taken place. The origins and sole purpose of the statement was to cunningly pound it into the public’s psyche for months that this kid in some way, by action of his own, had put himself in harm’s way by standing up, disobeying a direct
order to remain seated.

A vast majority of the population had unknowingly completely discarded their compassion and humanity in robot like response to the 9 word catch phrase long before the inquest took place. Marketing genius to say the least but from the beginning it was nothing more
than a blatant lie among many with the sole intent to deceive the public and draw attention from the ugly facts. Facts that remain permanently etched in the minds of those that actually
witnessed the event.

There are a myriad of things that remain unanswered and undisclosed from the public. Many question if we were in fact too far away to clearly see what was happening. They fail to mention that the officer’s vessel was very near us for quite some time drifting lifelessly into our path while we merged to the right to miss him. Keep in mind the boy left struggling for his life was several hundred feet to our left and behind us. How does one end up that far away if they had slowed to 10 MPH and made an effort to turn around as was disclosed in the inquest?

There was a huge delay between when the victim went overboard and when the officer returned to him that nobody seems to elaborate on. There was also an extensive delay that remained undisclosed between the time the officer returned to the victim and when the rescue
effort actually ensued. One would have to consider the GPS on the vessel would have pinpointed the distances but that factual data was withheld or downplayed in an effort to minimize the time frames involved. The time spans should have been more closely focused on
as they are a crucial factor in the event in its entirety. The seconds that turned into minutes left totally disregarded by the investigative team would have been perceived as no less than an
eternity in the eyes of the boy handcuffed left alone struggling in the water.

The investigation remains disheartening to me personally because I have worked closely with numerous Patrol officials throughout the years and this behavior is not at all reflective of the professionalism that every single one of them exhibited. The mere discrepancy between my own taped testimony and the typed version disclosed by the patrol should in itself warrant further investigation and disciplinary action. These are the very people we entrust to uphold our laws. What do we have if trust and honor is lost?

I honestly felt that nothing I ever witnessed again would compare to the horror experienced the moment we found out the drowning victim was handcuffed. I now know I was mistaken. The true horror has been the realization that the majority of the public and Media are willing to accept it all without question. This is the sad reality even with all the incriminating evidence of taped confessions, questioning peers and witness testimony saying otherwise. Allowing it to set the example that some are exempt from the law and no matter how negligent they are they will not face even the simplest of consequences. Allowing this is nothing short of gross negligence on the part of every citizen.

Contributing to the loss of the life of another is the most heinous of crimes known to society. An event such as this should never be taken lightly nor investigated half-heartedly. For those who agree my family and I ask that you please go to and sign the petition demanding this case be investigated by Federal Authorities in hopes that this wrong doing can be made right and those involved can be made aware that citizen’s will not allow dishonesty from our entrusted Men and Women in law enforcement.

If you are inclined to remain silent by all means feel free to stick your head in the sand. I would strongly urge you to keep in mind and consider the reality that at any moment a loved one of your own may be the reason behind the next newly released, ever so repeated, jingle like catch phrase. To stand by idly is to go against our own social moral values. After all every person will, in time, reap what they sow.

Larry Moreau