Sunday, October 24, 2021

Two Utah cops apologise for stop and search which led to murder charge

Image copyright Utah Highway Patrol Image caption Laundrie was finally brought in after Petito’s kids called police

Two Utah policemen apologised after being caught on camera stopping a “senior citizen” for erratic driving on suspicion he’d committed murder.

Assistant chief Steven Ellis, 46, pulled a gun on retired electrical engineer Frank Prentice, 73, after saying he believed Laundrie Petito, 83, had ordered him to kill his grandson, Stanley Haight, 15.

The officers approached in a patrol car and a police helicopter over the car.

Mr Ellis had told a patrol supervisor he had been told Mr Haight had been seen with a gun and was in a “combative state”.

‘Foul play’

As Mr Prentice pulled away Mr Ellis continued to point his gun at him in a semi-automatic pistol.

“Just let him go,” Mr Ellis shouted. “Let him go, let him go.”

Mr Prentice complied and appeared to be in shock as he walked to his car and tried to drive away.

However, Mr Ellis chased him to the end of the road, apparently still pointing his gun.

He turned his car to force Mr Prentice’s vehicle off the road.

Mr Ellis and another officer chased Mr Haight and other officers pulled up nearby.

Video from Utah Highway Patrol shows Mr Ellis, who worked as a special agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration, repeatedly saying: “He was a big part of a big murder”.

Mr Ellis apologised to the teenager’s mother, Christine Haight, in a video recorded by police officers.

He added that he now “deeply regretted the deadly force” he used.

Mr Ellis and officer Mike Hearn, 42, have been put on paid leave.

Image copyright Utah Highway Patrol Image caption Stanley Haight’s mother found him dead in his car in October, after he went missing in August

Speaking on Good Morning America, Ms Haight said she felt “victimised and lied to” by her son’s senior officers.

In a statement, Utah Highway Patrol Major Phil Anderson said: “With an assist from other officers, Ellis used only his patrol firearm, which was legal under Utah law.

“I am very disappointed the fact the officer used his body-worn camera to record his command. While the policy permits it, it should not.”

Unidentified law enforcement sources told the Salt Lake Tribune newspaper that officers failed to inform Mr Haight’s family of their suspicions that he had “done something to his grandson”.

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