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City of Moab releases investigative review of Petito and Laundrie incident in August

Autopsy results released for Brian Laundrie.
Autopsy results released for Brian Laundrie.(WWSB)
Published: Jan. 12, 2022 at 8:13 PM EST
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(WWSB) - The City of Moab has released a 99-page investigative review of the Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie incident that took place in August.

Brief Summary

“After a formal complaint was filed with the Moab City Police Department, an independent law enforcement agency has completed a thorough review of the August 12, 2021, domestic violence incident involving Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie,” the report started out.

According to the report, the officers involved in the incident back in August of 2021 “made several unintentional mistakes that stemmed from the fact that officers failed to cite Ms. Petito for domestic violence.”

The report is recommending improvements to the policies and training of the Moab City Police Department. The recommendations include:

  • Providing additional training in domestic violence investigation
  • Additional legal training to ensure officers understand state laws and statutes
  • Conducting an overall policy review
  • Conducting a software review
  • Strengthening the review process for incident reports

The report also found that a statement was never taken from the original 911 caller, and it recommends that be done to make the incident report more complete.

Based on the findings in the report, the City of Moab believes their officers “showed kindness, respect, and empathy in their handling of this incident.” Plans are also in place to add a trained domestic violence specialist to oversee incidents that are investigated by Moab police officers.

“We also will implement added and ongoing training and testing to ensure that the officers understand policies and procedures,” the report stated.

“The City of Moab sends our sincere condolences to the Petito family. Our hearts go out to them as they continue to deal with the tragic loss of their daughter,” the report said.

Initial Call to Dispatch

On Aug. 12, 2021, around 4:40 p.m., the Grand County Dispatch Center received a call. That caller said he was reporting what he described as a “domestic dispute.” The caller reported he was driving and saw a “gentleman slapping the girl.” That caller said he stopped driving and the male and female “ran up and down the sidewalk” where “he proceeded to hit her.”

The caller also said that the couple hopped into their van and drove off. The caller took a picture of the license plate and described the vehicle to the dispatch center.

Dispatch Action

Dispatch used the emergency tone to alert all law enforcement working in the area of the call they received. Dispatch said they had a report of a male hitting a female and the van left northbound from the Moonflower Community Co-Op, according to the report. Dispatch then provided a description of the vehicle to law enforcement.

Moonflower Community Co-Op Action

Officer Eric Pratt arrived at the Moonflower Community Co-Op where the incident happened, according to the report. He then asked dispatch for the 911 caller’s phone number. Pratt told dispatch he spoke with another witness who gave more details on the vehicle that left.

Traffic Stop

Officer Daniel Robbins stopped the van on the turnoff road that goes into Arches National Park after he saw it cross over the double yellow line and cross back over, according to the investigative report. The van then hit the curb on the passenger side.

Robbins reported to dispatch that the driver might be intoxicated. He stopped the vehicle and had the female, Petito, exit. He then separated both Petito and Laundrie.

From that point on, Laundrie and Petito do not speak to each other while law enforcement is in contact.

Brian Laundrie’s Statements to Law Enforcement

Disclaimer: These statements might not be word-for-word.

Laundrie told officers that he and Petito had not been drinking and it had been a “long day.”

He said their “little squabble” started earlier in the day when they were at a coffee shop. Laundrie told officers that they had been there “for so long,” from about 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. He said the “flies” had been “intense” and they had “definitely been getting to her,” referring to Petito. Laundrie then told officers that when they got back into the van, there was “some little dirt” at the back.

He then allegedly moved their food around and there was “a little disagreement there.” When officers asked about the disagreement, Laundrie said it wasn’t much of a disagreement, according to the report, but went on to say he had “dirty feet” and there were “little things, relationship things,” they were arguing about.

Laundrie then said that Petito was working on her website and said he “gave her time.” Petito then told officers they had a nice morning but Gabby “got worked up.” He told officers that he suggested the couple take a “breather” and felt that was the only way for them to calm down.

Petito allegedly tried getting the keys from Laundrie, and that is when he was pushing her away. Laundrie said he know he “shouldn’t push her” but said he was just trying to push her away.

Laundrie then told police that he kept the keys from Petito because he “didn’t really have a phone,” and didn’t want Petito to leave him alone without one.

Later on, Laundrie gave Officer Robbins his phone number and confirmed the number by looking at his cellphone. The report said, “This was interesting considering he said previously that he, ‘didn’t really have a phone.’”

Laundrie claimed that when he was pushing Petito away, that is when she hit him. Laundrie said this is when he got “really loud” and said that was what most likely drew everyone’s attention. He then said he was yelling, “Back up! Get away!”

Then Laundrie told police that the injury near his eye was from Petito’s phone. He said Petitio had jumped on him and was “swinging” when he pushed her. He also said that Petito wore rings and the combination of the phone, her rings, and nails are what most likely caused the injury.

Park Ranger Ryan Kral then pointed out scratches on the left side of Laundrie’s neck, the left side of his nose, and a scratch near the center of his face. There was also a bruise and bleeding on the right side of his head, according to the report.

Officer Robbins found more injuries on Laundrie’s right bicep/tricep area. Laundrie said he was not in any pain and he “wasn’t complaining.”

When asked if he takes medication, Laundrie said he did not, but Petito wanted him to for his “high anxiety.” When asked if Petito took medicine, Laundrie chuckled and said, “She’s just crazy!” According to the report, he immediately took the comment back, saying he was “kidding.”

Laundrie then told officers that he hit the curb because Petito grabbed and turned the wheel. Laundrie apologized multiple times to officers for his driving, saying he was driving too fast before getting pulled over. He said they were headed to the park to get water.

Gabrielle Petito Statements to Law Enforcement

Disclaimer: These statements might not be word-for-word.

While still in the van, officers asked Petito why she was crying. She said that she and Laundrie had been fighting and there have been “personal issues.” She then said, “I distracted him from driving, I’m sorry.”

Once they were separated, Petito told officers that she had been having a “very stressed morning.” She did confirm that they hadn’t been drinking and they do not drink. She said she was trying to get work done and was apologizing to Laundrie after she had thrown stuff to the back of the van. She told officers she gets “so stressed out,” and has “OCD.”

Petito then said she has a “mean attitude” but was not trying to be mean. She said she talked in a “mean tone” and Laundrie got frustrated with her, locking her out of the van and telling her to “go take a breather.” Petito also told police they had run out of water and was going to the park for it.

Petito said she was starting a blog and it was “so much work” and Laundrie “doesn’t really believe” that she can do “any of it.” Petito told police that she wanted to sit in the van because her stuff was in there, but Laundrie wanted to take a “breather.”

Police then asked Petito about the injuries on her left cheek and left arm. She initially said she wasn’t sure what caused it, saying it “happened really fast.” She then said she was trying to get back in the van and Laundrie’s backpack “got her.”

Utah Police were told Brian Laundrie hit Gabby Petito before they questioned the couple in...
Utah Police were told Brian Laundrie hit Gabby Petito before they questioned the couple in mid-August, but when questioned, Petito told them she slapped Laundrie.

When told about the witnesses that claimed Laundrie hit her, she responded, “To be honest, I definitely hit him first.” Petito told police she slapped Laundrie a couple of times and Laundrie kept telling her to “shut up.”

Officer Pratt asked her if Laundrie only “grabbed” her and she said yes. He then asked, “Did he hit you, though?” She responded with, “I guess, but I hit him first.”

Petito told police that Laundrie “grabbed my face, I guess,” and demonstrated the action. She said, “Like, he didn’t punch me in the face.” Petito then told police she could feel the cut on her face and it burned when she touched it.

When asked about the van hitting the curb, Petito said, “I hit him.” She went on to say that was the reason Laundrie hit the curb. Petito said it was when she saw the police lights that she hit Laundrie and said either, “You’re so stupid,” or “You’re an idiot,” according to the report.

Petito then said she did not “touch the steering wheel but only for like a second. I just saw the lights come on.” When officers asked her if she ever touched the steering wheel, she said, “No, no, I didn’t touch the steering wheel at all.”

Then officers asked Petito if Laundrie was patient with her, according to the report. Petito responded with, “Yeah, but I get it. It just makes me upset. I know he definitely gets frustrated with me a lot because I have a lot of anxiety and he definitely has anxiety, too.”

Written and Verbal Statement

Disclaimer: These statements might not be word-for-word.

Officer Pratt called one of the witnesses, according to the report, and that witness gave a sworn written statement later on.

That witness said he saw Laundrie and Petito involved in a “dispute.” That witness said from what he could tell, it appeared at one point they might have been fighting over Petito’s phone. He then told police that Laundrie was trying to keep Petito from getting in the van.

The witness then said Petito hit Laundrie a few times in the arm and/or face while trying to get into the van. He said Petito “forced” her way over Laundrie’s lap through the driver’s side door and got into the passenger seat. The witness then heard Petito tell Laundrie, “Why do you have to be so mean?”

(Source: Moab Police Department via CNN Newsource)
(Source: Moab Police Department via CNN Newsource)

He then told police that he was unsure if it was “play fighting,” saying Petito’s punches were nothing like “slugs to the face.” But the witness did say that something was “off” and he had a “weird vibe,” according to the investigative report.

Officer Pratt then asked the witness if he saw Laundrie hit Petito. He hesitated and said he “maybe” saw a push but nothing like a “full-on punch to the face or anything.”

The witness wasn’t clear on exactly what happened between Petito and Laundrie, according to the report. The witness said the fighting was “kind of light” and they were “laughing.”

Officer Pratt then made arrangements to pick up a statement from the witness at a later time and said he would start writing down what he remembered while it was still fresh on his memory.

Officer Action

Officer Robbins was the investigating officer in the case and was helped by Office Pratt. The report said that it seemed as though Officer Pratt was more experienced and was “taking an active role in guiding Officer Robbins throughout this investigation.”

At the end of the investigation, when another call came out, Officer Pratt asked Officer Robbins if he would feel more comfortable taking the call that just came out, according to the report. This left Officer Pratt to conclude the investigation.

It was decided at the end that Officer Robbins would conclude the case and Officer Pratt left the scene. Officer Robbins told Petito she was not going to be charged but said he had to separate her and Laundrie for the night.

Officer Robbins told Laundrie the same thing, saying that since Petito did not “intend” to hurt him, “technically speaking it does not fit the letter of the code.” This is why he was not charging Petito with domestic violence assault.

Officer Robbins then advised them both to not have any contact with each other until the next day. He let Petito take the van while he took Laundrie to Bowen Motel.

During the investigation, Officer Pratt spoke to a witness, Laundrie, and Petitio to gather the facts. Officer Robbins spoke with Laundrie and Petito and took photographs of Laundrie’s injuries and their driver’s licenses.

Summary and Evidence

This section will show the initial complaint, the Utah Code sections, and some applicable Moab City Police Department policies. This will also show formal complaints from Attorney Tanya Reeves.

Some of the Formal Complaints from Attorney Tanya Reeves

  • “An officer discussed his wife’s private medical diagnosis and prescribed medication with Brian Laundrie while transporting him to the police station, which was captured on body cam and subsequently released without redaction.”

According to the report, Laundrie was not taken to the police station. He was taken to a local motel. This complaint is regarding personal information that was discussed by Officer Robbins, regarding his wife.

The complaint says that Officer Robbins disclosed his wife’s “medical diagnosis” and “prescribed medication” with Laundrie. The report states that Officer Robbins did not “specifically disclose any of these things.” Officer Robbins states his wife has anxiety and takes medicine for it.

“Although the line can be drawn and an assumption could be made that there is a diagnosis because of taking medication, we don’t know what the actual diagnosis is or what medication she is taking, or even if the medication is ‘prescribed,’” the report stated.

Officer Robbins and Officer Pratt spent about 75 minutes with Laundrie and Petito and “demonstrated throughout the contact their ability to have an authentic and respectful conversation regarding this incident.”

Gabby Petito
Gabby Petito(Moab City Police Department)

During the incident, both officers felt comfortable sharing details of their personal lives that related to the couple’s relationship.

The report said, “While knowing his body-worn camera is on, if Officer Robbins was comfortable sharing the generic details he did with Brian, it would be difficult to say that he unreasonably violated his wife’s privacy or sense of dignity unless a complaint was made by Officer Robbins’ wife herself.”

  • “Several officers discuss the legislature’s intent to remove discretion from the responding officers in suspected domestic violence calls, and strategize around how they can evade the imposition of legislative intent to arrest and/or cite suspects.”

In the report, it says “the officers ‘strategized’ a way around the statute.” It goes on to say, “the officers made a mistake by not reading the entire assault statute as well as misinterpreting the language in the statute.”

  • “An officer appears to carefully and deliberately ‘coach’ Gabby Petito to answer questions regarding intent in a manner that would allow the officer to avoid issuing her a citation or arrest”

Here are some of the statements, found in the report, that Officer Pratt made to Petito during the questioning:

  • “Think very hard before you answer the question.”
  • “When you slapped him those times, were you attempting to cause him physical pail or physical impairment?” Petito shook her head and said no.
  • “What were you attempting to do? What was the reason behind the slapping and stuff? What were you attempting to accomplish by slapping him?” Petito responded, “I was trying to get him to stop telling me to calm down.”

Office Pratt said he remembered telling Petito to not answer quickly and to think about the questions before answering them. He said, “I do recall telling her to think about it because it’s important and I think that’s a fair thing to tell somebody.”

He went on to say, “What I didn’t want to see that day was her take all of the criminal responsibility for this incident upon herself at 22-year-old.”

(Credit: Good Morning America)

Officer Pratt said multiple times that he just wanted an honest answer from Petito. He also said, “Maybe I coached her into giving me an honest answer cause that’s what I was wanting. That’s what I wanted and honestly, that’s haunted me. Her saying, I just wanted him to stop telling me to calm down. She’s little, I have daughters, I can imagine them in these situations. I can totally see one of my daughters just wanting someone to stop telling them to calm down. I believe what she said, I believe it then, I still do.”

You can find the rest of the complaints in the document below.

Utah State Code

According to the report, the incident between Petito and Laundrie was classified as an assault that happened between a male and a female. The report stated, “An assault did take place, therefore should be classified as a domestic violence investigation.”

There were four statements made, with three of them being fairly consistent: Laundrie’s, Petito’s, and the witness’ statement.

With the fourth witness, contact was not made outside the 911 call and there is no written statement or formal interview done.

Based on the information given, the report states that in this specific incident, Laundrie would be the victim and Petito would be the suspect.

The report states, “Officer Pratt talks in detail, multiple times, about the lack of discretion law enforcement officers have when it comes to domestic violence incidents. It is clear... that an arrest, either by citation or custody, was decided would be the most appropriate action to take throughout this entire investigation.”

Assistant Chief Palmer told the officers to follow “city policy and state law and to follow what fits the situation,” since he was not on scene and did not have all the facts. Then, “Officer Pratt tells Officer Robbins how important it is to read the actual verbiage of what is written in the various codes.”

At one point during the incident, Officer Pratt told Officer Robbins that he didn’t care if they use “the actual letter of the law” in deciding not to charge Petito. The report then states, “When people talk about the ‘letter of the law,’ they are talking about the actual words written, the literal interpretation of the words. This line of thinking lines up with what Officer Pratt explains later on that one officer may see things differently than another officer and Officer Pratt believed this incident didn’t meet the elements of the assault code as it was written.”

During an interview, later on, Officer Pratt said he saw signs of mental health issues in both Petito and Laundrie. He said, “I saw the dynamics of their relationship… If there were all these red flags that he was going to murder Gabby I didn’t see those. I saw the same red flags I see every time I get called to a relationship issue. They don’t call us there because they’re doing great and want the police to come over and see how great they’re doing; they call us because something is devolved…”

Officer Pratt said he saw this as “another unhealthy relationship.” Officer Pratt said he found one of the elements for assault was missing: “The attempt to use unlawful force or violence to cause bodily injury” to Laundrie.

Officer Robbins, in an interview conducted later, said he observed the code Officer Pratt showed him and said, “I went with that one because she said that she didn’t have the intent to harm him.”

Officer Robbins also said, “I do not believe the situation escalated to the level of a domestic assault as much as that of a mental health crisis.” He then said he was trying to fix the problem and found out what the underlying problem really was.

When asked why resources for mental health issues weren’t given to the couple, Officer Robbins said “Calls were stacking up left and right, and mistakes were made. It completely slipped my mind. I didn’t even think about it.”

The report stated that there was no information given that would cause any of the officers to think there would be continued violence.

In the case report, the incident was categorized as a “disorderly conduct” incident and details the disposition of the case. The report states that it “should have been a domestic violence-related category.”

Conclusion

“Just because Gabby was determined to be the predominant aggressor as it related to this incident, doesn’t mean she was the long-term predominant aggressor in this relationship,” the report said.

The report went on to say that it was “very likely” that Petito was a long-term victim of domestic violence, whether physically, mentally, and/or emotionally. Here is a statement from that report:

“Gabby had a job which she left in order to travel the country with Brian. Gabby was trying to start an online career which Brian didn’t support or believe she could accomplish. Brian tried locking Gabby out of the van in an attempt to control her movements. Brian said he was trying to “make” Gabby calm down and Gabby said she was trying to get Brian to stop telling her to calm down. Gabby also said Brian kept telling her to “shut up.”

Officer Pratt said, “I’m desperately f***** over that she got killed. I really am. I would have done anything to stop it if I would have known that was coming.”

(WWSB)

Officer Pratt said he accepted responsibility for anything that was found he did wrong in the case. He said, “I accept responsibility for it but I don’t want anyone to think that I did not care. I have daughters, and I do want anyone involved to know that I talked to Gabby and I treated Gabby as much like I could, fatherly, the way I would want another cop to interact with my daughter, even if he got it wrong. I do care. I am devastated about it. I cared that day and I still care. I don’t think the public gets that we... I don’t know if they know we care. I don’t know if they know.”

The report did find that the Moab Police Department, and specifically Officer Pratt and Officer Robbins, are responsible for their actions or lack thereof. The report then says, “However, I find it difficult to assign responsibility to anyone other than the person or persons directly responsible for Gabby’s death, weeks after and several hundred miles away from their August 12 incident in Moab.”

Based on the findings, here is a full list of the recommendations listed above:

  • Both officers should be placed on probation or have that probation extended
  • A review of Officer Robbins’ FTO program to see if he needs additional field training
  • Report writing training, at least eight hours
  • Domestic violence investigation related training, at least eight hours
  • Legal training
  • A review of the report approval processes previously in place to see if more checks and balances are needed
  • A follow up with the witness for his statement, regardless of how long it has been and whether or not his statement is tainted due to the coverage of the case
  • A review of the software used to transfer files to reduce the risk of photographic evidence being lost in the future
  • Overall policy review
  • Implement a Lethality Assessment protocol and policy in all domestic violence cases

Full Report

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