NEWLY uncovered emails have raised new questions about why police in Utah waited two weeks to release a crucial second body camera video of an August dispute between Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie.
The second clip, released by the Moab City Police Department earlier this week, shows 22-year-old Gabby telling officer Eric Pratt that Laundrie had hit her, but only after she had struck him first.
Gabby's remarks, coming just weeks before she would be found murdered in Wyoming, directly contradicted the chain of events Laundrie was seen describing to officers in the first video from the August 12 callout.
In the first video, a smiling Laundrie denies ever striking Gabby but admits to pushing her away several times in a bid to fend her off.
Pratt and another officer, Daniel Robbins, ultimately decided the incident was a "mental health crisis" rather than a case of domestic violence and separated the pair for the night. No charges were filed.
That came despite the officers being summoned to the scene after a man called 911 to report that he had seen a male "hitting and slapping" a female before getting into a van and driving away.
Police released Robbins' body camera video of the incident on September 16, five days after Gabby was reported missing, but it took them 14 more days to release Pratt's video, despite numerous requests.
Moab Police Acting Chief Braydon Palmer told KUTV that the delay was caused by the small department being overloaded by requests for the video.
However, emails obtained by the network have cast doubt on Palmer's story, suggesting it may have been pressure from the former Grand County attorney, Happy Morgan, that forced the department's hand.
“It became obvious to me watching the news that information had been withheld from the media," Morgan said.
Read our Gabby Petito live blog for the very latest news and updates…
She went to the Moab's city council meeting on Tuesday and publicly admonished the police department.
“Two officers responded that day – Pratt and Robbins,” Morgan told the council. "Where’s Pratt’s camera? Every news agency in the United States has requested it and they have not been turned over.”
The following day, KUTV reports that Morgan wrote an email to Palmer, who is currently in charge of the department after Chief Bret Edge took an absence of leave amid an investigation into Moab PD's handling of the incident.
Morgan wrote, “the sooner you come clean about Pratt's body camera for the August 12 Petito/Laundrie matter, the better. That information has been GRAMA [Utah’s Government Records Access Management Act] requested by multiple agencies.”
"If it was withheld, you need to provide it and apologize,” Morgan continued. “If it doesn't exist then the sooner you own up to that, the better.”
In her scathing email, she called accused the department of attempting a "cover-up" and urged Palmed to "fix that before the error blows up in your face."
Palmer responded to Morgan within the hour, saying he planned to release Pratt’s body camera video the following day.
He told Morgan, “This is a high priority for me and [I] agree with your comments on that matter. This process should have occurred more timely," KUTV reports.
The video was indeed released the next day, with Palmer publicly blaming the delay on the multitude of requests received by the department.
Morgan said she was angered and dumbfounded to hear the acting cheif's explanation.
“I thought that that was inconsistent with the truth and inconsistent with the email,” Morgan told the network on Saturday, “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.”
In a statement, Palmer stood by his original explanation, adding: "We did and continue to receive far more GRAMA requests than we ever have experienced, which is why the video was delayed."
Beyond the department's delay in releasing the footage, an investigation has been launched into how officers Pratt and Robbins handled the dispute between Laundrie and Petito on August 12.
In a statement announcing the probe last month, a spokesperson for The City of Moab told The Sun: "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 statement continued that individuals "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 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."
Moab City Police Cheif Bret Edge also offered a brief statement to The Sun at the time.
"An outside party filed a request with the Moab City Police Department asking for a formal investigation into the Aug. 12 incident in Moab involving Gabrielle Petito and Brian Laundrie. We take all complaints seriously and we are committed to fully addressing these concerns.
"In compliance with police department policy, we will conduct an investigation. The police department will identify an unaffiliated law enforcement agency to conduct the formal investigation on our behalf.
"We look forward to the investigation. Should the investigation identify areas for improvement we will take that information to heart, learn from it, and make changes if needed to ensure we are providing the best response and service to our community."
Days later, Moab PD announced that Edge had taken a leave of absence amid the investigation.
It's unclear how long he will be away from his post, but he requested the indefinite leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act on September 27 with no reason publicly specified.
It's also unclear if Pratt or Robbins have been placed on leave or administrative duty while the probe is carried out.
CRUCIAL SECOND CLIP
Robbins' bodycam footage of the dispute between Petito and Laundrie was released by the department on Friday.
The incident unfolded on August 12, less than two months into the couple's planned four-month trip across the US in their repurposed Ford Transit van. Just over two weeks later, Gabby was seen alive for the final time.
The officers stopped the pair after a 911 caller reported the two were seen fighting.
The officer asks Petito if she’d been hit in the face or on the arm. “Where did he hit you?” the officer says. “Don’t worry, just be honest.”
“He didn’t, like, hit me in the face,” she responds. “He didn’t, like, punch me in the face or anything.”
“Did he slap your face, or what?” the officer asks.
Petito said Laundrie “grabbed me with his nail, and I guess that’s why it looks — I definitely have a cut right here,” she adds, pointing to her cheek. "I can feel it. When I touch it, it burns.”
Laundrie, meanwhile, tells police: "I pushed her away. She gets really worked up, and when she does she swings, and she had her cell phone in her hand. So I was just trying to push her away.”
Gabby is seen in the clip telling police that Laundrie "got really frustrated" with her, and "locked me out of the car and told me to go take a breather, but I didn’t want to take a breather."
She was then asked if either she or Laundrie had been drinking, to which she responds: "No, we don’t drink.
"I was yelling at him … and I kind of punched his arm."
Pratt and Robbins, along with a Grand County Sheriff's deputy, are then heard discussing what they've just been told.
“It doesn’t sound to me like she was attempting to injure him,” one officer says. “It’s your call.”
The officers discuss whether Gabby should be charged with assault, but ultimately decided that she shouldn't be.
"He doesn’t want to pursue it. She’s not a threat to him,” one of the officers says.
Around 30 minutes into the clip, one of the cops tells Gabby he wants to speak "frankly" with her.
"I have a daughter almost your age, and I’m looking at you not so much like a suspect, but also as kind of a victim in the sense that you’re dealing with some struggles emotionally, immensely at your age," he says.
"Probably, they’ll work themselves out as you get older. There’s a lot of angst at your age. … And hopefully it works itself out in the future.”
He adds that both she and Laundrie "contributed to this … as a result of your inability to cope with the anxiety and the stress that you’re having. So in a way, you’re kind of a victim of this.
"I think you would’ve done better if you had the skills to do better. But you don’t learn skills ‘til you learn skills. You don’t have enough life experience yet to know how to navigate everything.”
Less than two weeks after the encounter at the Moab roadside, Gabby was seen alive for the last time in Wyoming, sometime around August 27 in Jackson Hole.
Brian then quietly returned home to Florida alone on September 1, failing to alert police or Gabby’s family that she was missing.
He reportedly acted “without a care in the world” upon his return, neighbors said, mowing the front yard and enjoying idyllic bike rides with his mom.
As reported by The Sun last week, he also went camping with his family at Fort De Soto Park on September 6.
Gabby was eventually reported missing by her mother in New York on September 11.
Then, on September 14, Brian allegedly vanished after telling his parents he was going hiking at Carlton Reserve.
But they didn’t report Brian missing until three days later when police showed up at their home.
Gabby's remains were eventually recovered from a campsite near Grand Teton National Park on September 19, after an eight-day search.
A preliminary autopsy report ruled the manner of her death a homicide, but a specific cause of death has not yet been confirmed.
Laundrie is not currently considered a suspect in Gabby's murder but is considered a person of interest.
He also has a warrant out for his arrest on bank fraud allegations after allegedly racking up $1,000 in charges on a debit card between August 30 and September 1 that's believed to have belonged to Gabby.
Law enforcement is still searching Carlton Reserve for traces of Laundrie, while TV star Dog the Bounty Hunter is scouring Fort De Soto.
Gabby Petito timeline
Gabby Petito, 22, was last seen on August 24, leaving a hotel in Utah. Here is a timeline of Gabby Petito’s disappearance:
- June 2021 – Gabby Petito and her fiancé Brian Laundrie set off on a cross-country trip across the US.
- July 4 – Gabby posts photos of herself barefoot in Gove County, Kansas.
- July 8 – Gabby posts photos of herself at the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado.
- July 18 – Gabby and Brian post photos of themselves at Utah's Zion National Park.
- August 12 – Body camera footage was released in September showing an encounter Brian and Gabby had with police in Utah. Police confirmed that no significant injuries were reported.
- August 19 – Gabby and Brian post a video on their YouTube channel chronicling their trip.
- August 24 – Gabby is spotted leaving a hotel in Salt Lake City, Utah.
- August 25 – Gabby Facetimes her mom, Nichole Schmidt, for the final time. In a later police report, Schmidt said her conversations with her daughter revealed "more and more tension" between her and Brian.
- August 25 – Gabby also posts her last Instagram. No location is given.
- August 27 – Gabby is seen for what's believed to be the final time. Witnesses claim they saw Brian in an explosive argument with staff at a restaurant in Jackson Hole, leaving Gabby in tears.
- August 27 – Four hours later, travel bloggers driving through Grand Teton National Park drive past the couple's van "abandoned" on a dirt road.
- September 1 – Brian returns home to Florida without Gabby.
- September 11 – Gabby's parents report her missing to Suffolk County police.
- September 14 – Brian's family issues a statement saying he has retained an attorney and will not be cooperating with investigators.
- September 14 – Brian is allegedly last seen by his family. He reportedly told them he was going hiking in Cartlon Reserve but failed to return.
- September 15 – Florida's North Port police announce Brian is a person of interest in the case. He is not charged with any crime.
- September 16 – Utah police release body camera footage of the police encounter with Brian and Gabby.
- September 17 – Brian's parents say they have not seen their son in a couple of days and report him missing.
- September 18 – Police announce they were searching Carlton Reserve in Florida for Brian. Police announce they have not found anything.
- September 19 – Authorities in Wyoming say they found a body in Grand Teton National Park. The FBI announces the body was believed to be Gabby's but a full forensic identification needs to be completed first to confirm.
- September 20 – Police execute a search warrant on Laundrie's home, seizing his silver Mustang and a hard drive that may contain "evidence relevant to proving that a felony has been committed."
- September 21 – Officials announce they will be conducting an autopsy on the remains found in Wyoming to confirm whether or not they belong to Gabby. Police also resumed their search for Laundrie, this time on the Venice side of Carlton Reserve.
- September 21 – The FBI announced the body found in Wyoming was identified as Gabby's. The cause of death was not yet revealed.
- September 21 – The Teton County Coroner's office said Gabby's official cause of death was still pending but the initial manner of death is homicide.
- September 22 – Police continue to scour Carlton Reserve for a trace of Laundrie but yield no leads. A specialist dive team is called in to assist with the hunt.
- September 23 – Officials announced a federal arrest warrant for Brian was issued.
- September 26 – Gabby's funeral was held on Long Island, New York.
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