An independent review determined that Moeb, Utah, police officers who met Gabby Petito with her fiance Brian Laundrie a month before her body was found in Wyoming made several critical errors.
The investigative review, released on Wednesday and conducted by Capt.Brandon Ratcliffe of the Price City, Utah Police Department, found that officers responding to an August 12 incident misclassified what s’ passed between Petito and Laundrie, writing that the report lacked necessary details.
The independent investigation was carried out after a formal complaint was filed by a lawyer who raised questions about how the incident was handled by police officers on duty. The review recommends that the two officers, Eric Pratt and Daniel Scott Robbins, be placed on probation.
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“Both written reports lack important details as to who, what, when, where and how in relation to this incident,” Ratcliffe wrote in the report.
The initial Moab Police report explained how the encounter began after police received a 911 call regarding a “home disturbance” involving two people driving a van. An officer stopped the van Laundrie was driving on a road to Arches National Park after crossing the double yellow line and colliding with a sidewalk.
The report reflected how officers had tried to work sensitively with the couple who, in separate interviews with officers, described how difficult life was for them on the road.
“Gabrielle, who was in the passenger seat, was crying uncontrollably,” wrote an officer in the August 13 report.
Officers wrote that the couple – while battling self-proclaimed mental health issues that led to Petito slapping Laundrie in the face – were smartly and sensitively trying to work out their issues.
Laundrie told the officer that he and Petito both suffered from the same mental health issue, although the name of the specific issue was redacted in the report. He told the investigator that Petito had problems “more advanced” than his own and that friction had built up between them for several days. Neither took any medication for their condition, Laundrie told the officer.
The independent review found that the incident should have been classified as domestic violence – and not just a mental health conflict – which would have required officers to make an arrest or issue a summons against Petito, Ratcliffe wrote in the report.
Petito told officers she slapped Laundrie in the face and hit him first, but police reports did not include details of the injuries she sustained. No officer appeared to ask Laundrie for a scratch on Petito’s cheek, although Petito told officers Laundrie grabbed his face.
Petito disappeared in late August while traveling across the country with Laundrie. Weeks later, his remains were found in Teton County, Wyoming, and a coroner ruled his death a homicide by strangulation.
Laundrie was named a person of interest in Petito’s disappearance and then went missing himself before being found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound on the Carlton Reservation in Florida in October.
Contribution: Michael James