Brian Laundrie manhunt: Moab police urge calm in Petito probe


Police in Moab, Utah, are calling for patience and calm as they await the results of an independent investigation into the response to an Aug. 12 domestic violence call involving Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie.

“The sensationalism of this particular incident is not helping the investigation that’s ongoing in any way, shape or form,” Assistant Chief Braydon Palmer told Fox News Digital in his first wide-ranging interview. “When it comes down to these types of matters, we refrain from making comment in order to protect the integrity of that investigation, to allow any parties involved in that investigation to have due process because they are entitled to it.”

Gabby Petito, left, and Brian Laundrie are seen in bodycam footage released by the Moab City Police Department in Utah.

Gabby Petito, left, and Brian Laundrie are seen in bodycam footage released by the Moab City Police Department in Utah.
(Moab City Police Department)

Palmer is leading the department after Chief Bret Edge announced he was taking a medical leave last month.

GABBY PETITO CASE: MOAB’S TOP COP TAKES LEAVE OF ABSENCE AMID INVESTIGATION INTO HANDLING OF 911 CALL

The Moab police department is under scrutiny after a pair of bodycam videos emerged showing its response to the Petito-Laundrie dispute, in which police made no arrests or citations despite a Utah statute requiring one to be issued in response to domestic violence incidents. After interviewing both Petito and Laundrie, as well as another witness, officers ruled out domestic violence and deemed the incident a “mental health break.”

Although Petito appeared visibly shaken and in tears throughout the encounter, responding officers were close to labeling her as the aggressor before ultimately deciding the incident was a “mental health break.” They asked the couple to split up for the night and drove Laundrie to a motel – where management later told Fox News they could not confirm whether he actually checked in.

MOAB TO INVESTIGATE POLICE HANDLING OF BRIAN LAUNDRIE, GABBY PETITO ALTERCATION

Weeks later Petito was found dead at a campsite in Wyoming, with Laundrie named a person of interest in the death. He is also the subject of an FBI-led manhunt on a federal debit card fraud charge. 

Obviously, our hearts go out to the family,” Palmer said.

One critic of the Moab police response is former Grand County prosecutor Happy Morgan, who is now a public defender in a neighboring community.

Contrary to some reporting, she said her email to Palmer urging him to release the second officer’s bodycam video was not “leaked” — she shared it with local media.

“The emails to KUTV were proudly sent by me — not leaked,” she told Fox News. “In the emails I was pressuring acting Chief Palmer to turn over the [Officer Eric] Pratt video to the press.”

Two officers’ bodycam videos have been released in connection with the incident. 

The first, from Officer Daniel Robbins, emerged on Sept. 16 after Fox News Digital was first to report that the couple had been involved in an Aug. 12 domestic incident in Moab. 

The department released video from Officer Eric Pratt on Oct. 1.

Moab city officials announced the outside investigation on Sept. 23.

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Additional bodycam videos from a pair of U.S. park rangers who also arrived at the scene have not yet been made public.

Chief Palmer said he did not yet have a clear time frame on when the investigation would come to a close.

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