Gabby Petito: Emails ask Moab cops to 'come clean' after PD delayed release of clip
Newly revealed emails have put the Moab City Police Department under more scrutiny and raise questions about why it took two more weeks for the department to release a second body camera video of the August 12 incident involving Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie. The first video of the incident was released on September 16, but the second one was released 14 days later.
The second body cam clip showed the young woman replying to a responding officer, Eric Pratt, when he asked her if Brian had struck him. She responded in affirmative, but also added that she hit him first. About the delay in the release of the footage, Moab Police Acting Chief Braydon Palmer earlier said it happened because of the small department being overloaded with requests for it. However, now emails obtained by 2News from a former Grand County attorney present a very different story. The release of the second footage is reportedly the result of the pressure being made by the former prosecutor, Happy Morgan.
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On August 12, two officers, Pratt as well as Daniel Robbins, responded to a call about a fight between Gabby and Brian, who had been on a cross-country trip in a converted van since the beginning of July. After checking with the pair, they called the incident a “mental health crisis” instead of a domestic violence case. But weeks later, Gabby’s remains were found inside a national park in Wyoming and Brian has been missing since September 14. The search for the 23-year-old is still on.
Though Robbins' bodycam clip was released soon, Pratt’s took time. Morgan, a lawyer who served as Grand County attorney for eight years, said: “It became obvious to me watching the news that information had been withheld from the media.” Last Tuesday, September 28, Morgan criticized the cops during the Moab's city council meeting. She slammed, “Two officers responded that day – Pratt and Robbins. Where’s Pratt’s camera? Every news agency in the United States has requested it and they have not been turned over.”
A day after the meeting, she sent an email to Palmer, who is currently in charge of the department because Chief Bret Edge took an absence of leave. The email read, “the sooner you come clean about Pratt's body camera for the August 12 Petito/Laundrie matter, the better. That information has been GRAMA requested by multiple agencies.”
She went on to say, “If it was withheld, you need to provide it and apologize. If it doesn't exist then the sooner you own up to that, the better,” before calling the whole matter a “cover up” and adding: “Fix that error before it blows up in your face.” The Moab Police Acting Chief reportedly replied to Morgan’s email immediately and said, “This is a high priority for me and agree with your comments on that matter. This process should have occurred more timely.”
The clip was released the very next day, but Palmer blamed the delay on too many requests, which stunned Morgan. She told 2News on Saturday, October 2, “I thought that that was inconsistent with the truth and inconsistent with the email and I’m concerned that if I hadn’t pushed the matter at city council and then again the next day, that that tape would still be withheld.”
Morgan added: “Sometimes it’s just best to say, 'We made this mistake, we shouldn’t have done it, and we’re going to do better in the future.’ That gives you an opportunity to start fresh and do things correctly.”
Apart from this, a probe has been launched into how cops Pratt and Robbins handled the August incident. The investigation was launched in September and at the time, a spokesperson for The City of Moab said: “The Moab City Police Department has clear standards for officer conduct during a possible domestic dispute and our officers are trained to follow those standards and protocol. At this time, the City of Moab is unaware of any breach of Police Department policy during this incident. However, the City will conduct a formal investigation and, based on the results, will take any next steps that may be appropriate.”
The spokesperson added that people “can view the same situation in very different ways, and we recognize how the death of Ms. Petito more than two weeks later in Wyoming might lead to speculation, in hindsight, about the actions taken [in Moab]. The purpose of the City’s formal investigation is to gather the underlying facts and evidence necessary to make a thorough, informed evaluation of such actions.”