Probe finds 'unintentional mistakes' in Petito police stop

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH (AP) -- A police investigation revealed that the Utah police made "several accidental mistakes" in stopping Gabby Petito with her boyfriend before she was murdered in a high-profile missing persons case.

13 January 2022 Thursday 13:24
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Probe finds 'unintentional mistakes' in Petito police stop

Wednesday's independent report examines the August 12th police stop in Moab. Officers responded to Petito's fight with Brian Laundrie, but determined that Petito was the aggressor. After a night of separation, they allowed the couple to go.

The body camera video taken by police of Petito, 22 years old, was widely viewed throughout the investigation. It raised questions about whether a stronger police response could have prevented her tragic death.

"Would Gabby still be alive today if the case were handled differently?" This is a difficult question to answer, despite the fact that it is one many people want to know. Capt. Brandon Ratcliffe from Price, Utah's police department, prepared the report.

After their van was seen speeding, and hitting a curb near Arches National Park's entrance, officers pulled the couple over. Laundrie (23 years old) stated that the couple had a minor fight after he got in the van with his dirty feet. Petito criticized her desire to keep the camper van clean and Laundrie declined press charges.

Her strangled body was found at the Wyoming border of Grand Teton National Park on Sept. 19, 2009. Laundrie was the only person identified by law enforcement as an individual of interest in this case. After returning home alone from Florida, he was shot in the head and later died in a swamp. Both of them were originally from Long Island in New York.

Utah law states that police must cite the aggressor in domestic violence assaults. The officers in this case determined Petito was the aggressor, but they didn't cite anyone because the incident was more mental or emotional.

Unsanctioned, one officer argued that Laundrie could bail her out and have "more control" over her.

Investigators were told by the officer that he would have done anything to stop her from being in danger. "I would have done everything to stop it if that was what I knew... It is a terrible thing.

The City of Moab gave praise to the officers for their "kindness, respect, and empathy" in handling this incident.

In the meantime, the 102-page report criticized the officers for failing to issue a citation or talking to a 911 caller, who had reported seeing the fight differently, the couple outside their van, and a man slapping the girl.

It found that Petito died because her killer was responsible for the actions of the officers.

The report suggested that officers involved in domestic violence investigations be trained better and placed on probation.

Ratcliffe stated that Petito may have been the aggressor in the fight Moab police investigated but that this was not necessarily their relationship.

Ratcliffe stated that Ratcliffe has seen many instances in his career when someone we know to be a victim of domestic abuse gets arrested for committing an attack of domestic violence against their long term abuser. "It is very likely Gabby was a victim of domestic violence over a prolonged period, whether it be mentally, physically, or emotionally."

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