MO Cop Turned Whistleblower Struggles to Raise Donations for Expenses
It took less than 24 hours for the wife of Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke to raise more than $10,000 on a Go Fund Me page she set up for her husband’s first degree murder trial.
It’s taken more than five months for the wife of Missouri Highway Patrol Sergeant Randy Henry to raise less than $3,000 on a Go Fund Me page she set up for her husband’s legal expenses.
Henry is a whistleblower who crossed the blue line to expose the police coverup in the death of Brandon Ellingson, a 20-year-old man who drowned after falling from a police boat while handcuffed on Memorial Day Weekend 2014.
And Van Dyke is the cop who shot and killed 17-year-old Lanquan McDonald, then conspired with other officers to claim the teen was lunging at him with a knife, making him fear for his life.
That lie was exposed with the release of a long-awaited dash cam video Tuesday, leading to Van Dyke’s arrest and his wife’s Go Fund Me page.
But as quickly as the page raised more than $10,000, Go Fund Me removed the page, returning all the money to donors, saying they do not allow fundraisers for suspected criminal activity.
Sergeant Henry, on the other hand, is not facing criminal charges but has racked up thousands of dollars in legal expenses after his department began retaliating against him for speaking out about Ellingson’s death earlier this year.
The Missouri Highway Patrol demoted him, then suspended him; actions he appealed. But he retired six months later, ending a 29-year career.
Now he is expected to testify on behalf of Ellingson’s family in an upcoming civil trial.
And judging by what he has been telling the media, his testimony is going to be extremely damaging to the Missouri Highway Patrol.
According to FOX 2:
Powerful words from a Highway Patrol whistleblower. Sgt. Randy Henry opened up about the drowning death of Brandon Ellingson, who drowned Memorial Day weekend in 2014.
Sgt. Henry recently announced his retirement, which will become official in December.
He told us today, ‘We killed as an agency, we killed Brandon Ellingson. Are my hands in that? Yes, I was part of the agency. I was a supervisor at Lake of the Ozarks. I was a supervisor who signed off on Piercy to work the water.’
Missouri state trooper Tony Piercy arrested Ellingson that weekend on suspicion of boating drunk, pulling his police boat next to Ellingson’s boat.
He then handcuffed Ellingson and sat him in the police boat, dropping a life jacket over his head, but not securing it by placing his arms through the sleeve.
When he began boating towards the facility to process Ellingson, the boat struck a large wave, sending the handcuffed man into the water.
Because the life jacket was not secured, it quickly slipped off as a Fox 2 reporter demonstrated would happen.
Witnesses say Piercy took his time when he swung the boat around as Ellingson’s head could be seen bobbing in the water, but not realizing he was handcuffed without a life vest.
Piercy eventually dove into the water, but by then, it was too late. Ellingson had gone under.
Piercy then reported the incident to Henry, who was his supervisor that day.
According to Fox 2:
Henry says Piercy told him he handcuffed 20-year old on suspicion of boating drunk, then put a ski type life jacket on him. He said Piercy described hitting a giant wake that sent Ellingson overboard. The ski jacket popped off since Ellingson did not have his arms in the jacket. We demonstrated in a Fox Files report, how the proper lifejacket might work with someone who cannot use their arms.
Sgt. Henry said the Highway Patrol did not want him to write a report. He said, ‘I knew right then the fix is in.’
Highway Patrol investigators recorded Henry’s concerns, but shut it down after you could hear on the recording, ‘They`re going to want full transparency on this thing so did you ask ourselves, did he use the highest degree of care here?’
I asked Sgt. Henry, ‘Was that a coincidence that the recorder went off at about that time?’
Henry: ‘No, that was deliberate because I also said the word manslaughter.’
It wasn`t the only time he said the patrol tried to silence him. Henry added, ‘My testimony at the first legislative hearing almost didn`t happen.’ He criticized training to legislators after he said his superiors told him to say training was ‘adequate and sufficient.’ Henry said, ‘I told him I`m not going to say that and about that time she comes out and I told her the same thing and she said `you`ll do what you`re told.` I said no I won`t.’
Henry blames Ellingson’s drowning death on the lack of training resulting from the merger between the state highway patrol and the state water patrol that went into effect January 1, 2011.
Because of that merger, signed into law by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon and intended to consolidate resources, cops whose backgrounds were in patrolling the highways were suddenly expected to patrol the waterways.
But they did not receive the proper training when it comes to placing life jackets on handcuffed suspects, even for something as obvious as ensuring the arms make it through the sleeves.
Henry apparently is one of those rare breeds of officers who will do what it is right rather than what protects the police department.
And that is all it took for them to retaliate against him, which led to his wife launching a Go Fund Me page in June, stating the following:
After nearly 30 years of being a sergeant and serving the Lake of the Ozarks area, Sgt. Henry’s position and location of his service is being unlawfully stripped from him. He has been demoted to corporeal and has been transferred to the Truman Lake area; a round trip drive of over 3 hours from his home, of nearly 30 years.
Why?…. Simply because he told the truth when given an under oath deposition in regards to a cover-up within the Missouri Highway Patrol and trooper Anthony Piercy. It is a case that resulted in the death of a young man that was in the custody of trooper Piercy, and died due to the reckless and negligent actions of that trooper.
Sgt. Henry should be protected under the Whistle Blower laws, but he is not! Instead, he’s had to hire counsel and pay staggering attorney fees. We believe this is wrong, and are coming together to help Sgt. Henry with his legal costs.
All money donated will be used strictly for the legal fees incurred by Sgt. Henry, with approximately 8% going to the fundraising website fees. If any monies remain after the legal fees are paid in full, they will be donated to the West Des Moines Community Schools Scholarship for Brandon Ellingson, a scholarship set up to honor the memory of Brandon Ellingson, the young man that died while in custody of the Missouri Water Patrol. Any donation would be greatly appreciated!
Unlike Henry, trooper Piercy did not face any disciplinary action for allowing Ellingson to drown.
According to the Kansas City Star:
Henry told Piercy that the type of device he was wearing doesn’t auto-inflate, to which Piercy reportedly said, “Oh, I thought they did.”
Henry said he then told Piercy, “You have to pull the ripcord.”
A few days later, Piercy talked again with Henry. At that time, Henry told the investigators, Piercy said he wished he had pulled the ripcord. He didn’t mention anything about thinking the device would auto-inflate.
At a coroner’s inquest in September 2014, Piercy told jurors that when he was in the water with Ellingson, he struggled to find the ripcord so he could bring them both to the surface. When he eventually found the cord, he said, he no longer had hold of Ellingson, so he didn’t pull it.
Jurors at the inquest found the death to be accidental, and Grellner announced days later that she would not file criminal charges against Piercy.
But it’s been eating away at Henry for more than a year, which is why he’s doing all he can to bring some kind of justice to Ellingson’s family.
Here is another television news interview with Henry that is different from the embedded one below.
His legal bills exceed $60,000.
UPDATE: Below is a screenshot from the Facebook page supporting Henry expressing their gratitude to PINAC readers who more than doubled donations towards Henry’s legal funds as well as a clarification that the Go Fund Me page was launched by somebody other than his wife, who was asked to write one of the paragraphs on the page, and that all funds are going directly to Henry’s attorney.