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No charges against Utica police officer in February video encounter

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

A Utica detective sergeant who was placed on leave in February after an online video surfaced of him using profanity and charging at a man during an encounter won't be charged, officials said Wednesday.

Utica police officials in February did not name the officer involved in the incident, but he was identified as Detective Sgt. Greg Morabito in the video posted on YouTube. At the time, Utica Mayor Gus Calandrino confirmed Morabito had been suspended but said he could not comment further due to the investigation into the allegations.

"The incident which occurred on February 9, 2022, was investigated by an outside agency, the Macomb County Sheriff's Department, who reported their findings to the Macomb County Prosecutor's Office," the Utica Police Department said in a statement posted on its official Facebook page. "Their request for a warrant was denied."

The statement also said: "Detective Sergeant Morabito has retired from the Police Department."

According to the video, Morabito and at least two other officers responded to a Marathon gas station after a driver complained about a man filming him. The man turned out to be Steve Jones, who runs the Fricn Media channel on YouTube.

Jones and his friends initially refused to answer questions from Morabito and the other officers about whether they had weapons. They argued they hadn't been pulled over or told of any crime they allegedly committed.

Morabito and Jones argued and cursed at each other, including after the officer told Jones' friend to stay away from his police vehicle. Jones recorded the encounter and posted the video online.

Jones was heard calling Morabito a "b---" and "idiot." At one point, when Jones mentioned freedom of speech rights, Morabito was seen raising his middle finger at him and saying, "(Expletive) you. This is freedom of speech, too," before the other officers separated the pair.

Shortly after Morabito and another officer approached his friend's car and the second officer touched the trunk, Jones was heard saying, "I’m coming for your job" followed by a slur. Morabito, who had been at his police vehicle door, was filmed shutting it and rushing toward Jones while shouting: "Come for it! You think you're the only one who's come for my job before?" Morabito appears to swat Jones' iPhone, which falls to the ground, and is heard cursing.

Morabito and the officers eventually leave without issuing any tickets as Jones and his friends shout at them, warning of legal action.

The recording then shows Jones' group at the Utica police station, where they sought to file a complaint, but are told to leave. When asked for his badge number, Morabito shows it to the man filming and responds: "Can you read or are you ignorant?"

Morabito was heard warning Jones and the others they faced arrest if they didn't leave immediately. When Jones refused, Morabito said "You're done" and moved to handcuff him.

The video doesn't capture their interaction, but Jones alleged to The News that Morabito slammed and shoved him, leaving a bruise and minor laceration for which he sought treatment at an urgent care center.