Eric Pratt, a former Salina police chief and former Gunnison resident and business owner, is under fire for discretionary policing decisions after new body camera footage has been released in the Gabby Petito murder investigation.
Pratt worked as a corrections officer until taking a job in Salina as a patrol officer, where he eventually worked his way up to police chief. He later lived and worked in Gunnison City and even opened a restaurant, Pratt’s Place, on Main Street, which is now closed. He currently works as a police officer for Moab City.
Recently, body cam footage from an Aug. 12 interaction with Pratt and his partner was obtained by CNN in relation to the Petito homicide investigation and the manhunt for her fiance, Brian Laundrie.
The footage, which is nearly an hour long, was taken after Pratt pulled over the Ford van owned by Petito and Laundrie. In it, Pratt tells Petito that witnesses had reported seeing Laundrie hit her, and inquired more about the incident.
Petito tells Pratt that Laundrie did hit her, but that she had hit him first. Upon further pressing from Pratt, Petito tells him, “Well, he kept telling me to shut up.”
Meanwhile, Laundrie is seen on body camera footage saying, “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.”
The responding officers did not make an arrest, but instead suggested the two spend the night separately, even helping them obtain a hotel room for Laundrie through a victim’s advocate program.
Petito and Laundrie carried on with their van trip until Sept. 1, when Laundrie returned home to Florida without his fiance. Ten days later, Petito was reported missing by her family, and her remains were found in Wyoming on Sept. 19. Laundrie—a person of interest in her homicide and subject of a federal arrest warrant alleging debit card fraud—is still on the run from authorities.
Brett Tolman, a former U.S. attorney for Utah—along with other critics on social media—are questioning if the responding officers should have done more.
“Now they have an objective eyewitness, dispatch and Gabby herself saying that Brian hit her,” Tolman told Fox News after the new bodycam footage surfaced. “Why they didn’t take him into custody is mind-boggling. I understand that hindsight is 20/20, but this is an absolute failure to properly assess the moment and make a proper decision based upon the facts and the law.”
The city of Moab is conducting an investigation into the police department’s response to the incident, but issued this statement: “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.”
Carl Wimmer, former state lawmaker and former school resource officer for Gunnison Valley High School, posted on his social media in response to criticisms about Pratt’s decision, saying, “I know Eric very well. I’ve worked with him very closely during my career and I love him. This is a tragic and unfortunate situation. I pray for everyone involved, at all levels.”