Review finds errors in police interaction with Gabby Petito, Brian Laundrie

·2 min read

Utah police officers made "several mistakes" when responding to an August call that Brian Laundrie hit Gabby Petito on the side of the road in Moab, an independent review of the incident found.

Laundrie, who died in October, is still the prime suspect in the high-profile murder of 22-year-old Petito, whose body was found inside a Utah national park in September.

Capt. Brandon Ratcliffe of the Price City Police Department probed the Aug. 12 incident the Moab City Police Department responded to, shortly after a caller said Laundrie had slapped Petito outside the Moonflower Community Co-Op grocery store.

Officers interviewed both Laundrie and Petito after pulling them over nearby. Petito said she hit Laundrie first, and he was treated as a victim in the incident, according to the report. The officers ultimately separated the couple for just one day, driving Laundrie to a motel.

The report concluded the two Moab officers who responded to the scene, Eric Pratt and Daniel Robbins, failed to accurately classify the police report as a domestic violence incident and file it with a prosecuting attorney, among other charges.

But Ratcliffe also knocked down multiple other allegations made against the city and the officers. The investigator also said he believed the mistakes made were unintentional.

"I am confident and comfortable in stating the mistakes that were made were not made intentionally," he wrote. "The officers did not know what they were doing was wrong at the time and did not make the decision to benefit themselves in any way. They both believed at the time they were making the right decision based on the totality of the circumstances that were presented."

The city of Moab said they plan to implement some of the report's recommendations, including additional training in domestic violence incidents and a strengthening of the review process for incident reports.

"The City of Moab believes our officers showed kindness, respect and empathy in their handling of this incident," the city said in a statement. "As the Moab City Police Department continues its daily mission to serve our community, efforts are underway to provide additional resources and tools to assist in addressing domestic violence incidents."

Laundrie, who fled after his girlfriend was reported missing in mid-September, was found dead inside a Florida swamp in October, concluding one of the most high-profile murder cases in recent years.

Ratcliffe said it was impossible to know if Petito's murder could have been prevented if Moab officers had taken stricter action.

"Would Gabby be alive today if this case was handled differently?" Ratcliffe asked in his report. "That is an impossible question to answer despite it being the answer many people want to know. Nobody knows and nobody will ever know the answer to that question."

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