Utah police should have cited Gabby Petito for domestic violence when they pulled over the Long Island native and boyfriend Brian Laundrie last summer, a new report released Wednesday said.
Moab city police made “unintentional mistakes” after a 911 call on Aug. 12 had officers stop the couple in the middle of their ill-fated road trip out west, an investigative report into the incident concluded.
The two responding officers should have cited Petito at Arches National Park because she admitted to being the aggressor in a public skirmish, even if she wasn’t the “long-term predominant aggressor in this relationship,” the report said.
Instead, cops chalked the dispute up to a “mental health break” and released the couple after a 75-minute encounter to continue their cross country trip after they agreed to spend the night apart.
Highly scrutinized bodycam footage showed Petito visibly shaken as police responded to a 911 caller’s claim that Laundrie had slapped her outside a food co-op. The couple said they were tussling out of frustration and denied there had been a serious attack.
The 22-year-old Long Island native was strangled to death in Wyoming several weeks later, and Laundrie, 23, subsequently killed himself in Florida after being sought in her death and disappearance, authorities ruled.
Police in Price, Utah launched an independent investigation into the incident after a lawyer filed a formal complaint arguing officers “coached” Petito after she revealed she “hit him first,” according to the 100-page report.
“Just because there may have been some signs that Brian was the long-term predominant aggressor, law enforcement could only act on the information they were provided,” Price Police Capt. Brandon Ratcliffe wrote in the report, adding it was “very likely Gabby was a long-term victim of domestic violence.”
Ratcliffe recommended that officers Eric Pratt and Daniel Robbins be put on probation for releasing the couple, but added he was “confident and comfortable in stating the mistakes that were made were not made intentionally.”
In a summary of the findings, Moab officials agreed that the two responding officers should have cited Petito for domestic violence, and made “several unintentional mistakes” stemming from that oversight.
Authorities wrote that the cops “showed kindness, respect and empathy in their handling of this incident,” but agreed to provide additional domestic violence and legal training to officers in the wake of the report.
“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.”