Gwinnett County

Ex-officer’s gun found with 16-year-old’s body, police say. Now, he’s charged with murder.

GWINNETT, Ga. — Gwinnett County police have upgraded charges against a Doraville officer arrested in the death of 16-year-old Gwinnett girl to felony murder and kidnapping.

Susana Morales vanished in July of 2022 as she walked back to her Gwinnett home. Her skeletal remains were found 20 miles from her home off of Highway 316 on the Gwinnett County/Barrow County line earlier this month.

On Feb. 13, Gwinnett police charged Miles Bryant, the former Doraville police officer, with concealing Morales’ death and falsely reporting a crime. On Wednesday, Gwinnett police announced that they have upgraded the charges.

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Police revealed Wednesday that a gun registered to Bryant was found near Morales’ remains. Bryant reported his weapon had been stolen around 11 a.m. on July 27, 2022, a report police have said is false. Police said it’s possible that Bryant dropped the weapon during the commission of the murder.

Morales’ cause of death has not been released, but police don’t believe she was shot.

Morales’ vanished on July 26, 2022. Police said the teen texted her mother at 9:40 p.m. that night and was not heard from again. Morales’s cell phone and video footage showed her walking on Singleton Lane in the direction of her home between 10:07 p.m. and 10:21 p.m., but detectives thought at the time that she may have gotten into a vehicle.

Police said her phone continued to indicate that she was in the same area until it was turned off.

Morales’ parents reported her missing the morning of July 27. Police said Wednesday that they believe that by the time she was reported missing, Morales was already dead.

Warrant applications revealed that Bryant lived “in close proximity” to Morales’ home and that he dumped her naked body in the woods.

Police said they don’t believe that Morales knew Bryant before her death.

Gwinnett Police Chief J.D. McClure defended his department’s response to Morales’ case at the news conference, saying the case was immediately assigned to an investigator.

“This type of crime at the hands of a law enforcement evokes anger even within the ranks of this agency,” McClure said.


Channel 2′s Gwinnett County Bureau Chief Matt Johnson has been following the investigation into Morales’ death and Bryant’s arrest. Earlier this month, Johnson obtained Bryant’s personnel file, which revealed two instances in which he was disciplined.

The 214-page report shows that Bryant passed an extensive background check before he was hired by Doraville police department in May 2021.

In Nov. 2021, another officer reported that while he was on duty and Bryant was off-duty and in street clothes, Bryant “pressed out his hands as if he was holding a handgun pointing it at me.”

The officer wrote, “I began to reach for my pistol with my right hand” before he recognized it was Bryant. He said Bryant told him to “keep your head on a swivel,” which landed him a two-day suspension.

Records show that months after Morales disappeared, Bryant responded to a runaway call of another child on Oct. 2, but waited three days to finish the report, while federal law requires it to be done within two hours.

For those three days, there was no record of that child being reported missing. Bryant was written up.

Johnson also spoke with a woman who reported Bryant for allegedly stalking her for nearly a year. Elasha Bates said Bryant, who had been a childhood friend, reconnected with her on social media and then repeatedly showed up to her home uninvited.

Bates said that Bryant’s behavior was so bizarre it made her afraid for her life, so she eventually reported it to Doraville police.

Bryant told Doraville police that he was simply “checking” on a distressed friend.

“I just bought cameras, got me a gun and made sure I kept it loaded,” Bates said.

A police report from Dec. 11 lists Bryant as the suspect in a suspicious activity incident, but Gwinnett County police said the case was never assigned to a detective.

They’re now they’re reopening that case in light of Morales’ death.

On Wednesday, Gwinnett County police revealed that Bryant was investigated for claims he attempted to break into a home in 2018, but the victim didn’t press charges.