Vigil for ASU student who drowned in police custody

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The mother and friends of an Arizona State University student, who drowned while in police custody, gathered to remember him Sunday night, on what would have been his 21st birthday.

It has been six months since Brandon Ellingson fell off of a boat to his death, and Sunday night, for the first time, we heard from his mother.

Sherry Ellingson was happy to see everyone at Tempe Town Lake to mark the occasion, but it was also an emotional day for her as she explained why the family filed a lawsuit over Brandon's death.

"You have all been an incredible support to myself and my family," she said during the vigil.

Ellingson could not hold back tears as she talked about her son who died in May after being handcuffed by a Missouri highway water patrol officer for suspicion of boating while intoxicated.

"He was underage," said Ellingson. "He was 20 and a half at the time, so he knew he was going in. He didn't question it. He got handcuffed, he was ready to go, and the patrol officer did not handle anything right from that point forward."

Ellingson said the arresting officer improperly placed a life jacket over Brandon's head and didn't secure it before speeding away.

"It was propped on his arms. He had no intention of securing him correctly," said Ellingson. “The GPS said he was going 43 miles per hour."

Brandon reportedly fell into the water and his life jacket came off. He slipped below the surface of the water and died.

His family has filed a civil lawsuit.

"I’m not happy. I'm not going to be happy until that man isn't out in the public anymore who could do this to someone else," said Ellingson.

"Compassionate, hard-working, diligent, loving, the list goes on," said a friend of Brandon.

"The laughter, the joy and happiness, precious memories…the best kind," said another friend during the vigil.

Ellingson said she will continue fighting to get justice for her son's death.

"He was too good of a soul to be taken early if something good wasn't going to come of it," she said.

Reporters at our affiliate, KCCI, said they’ve reached out repeatedly to the Missouri State Highway Patrol for comment. The department declined to respond, citing the ongoing investigation.