Gabby Petito's Parents File Suit Against Police in Utah

They should have realized she 'needed immediate protection,' lawyer says
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 8, 2022 2:33 PM CDT
Gabby Petito's Parents File Suit Against Police in Utah
In this image taken from police body camera video provided by the Moab Police Department, Gabby Petito talks to a police officer near the entrance to Arches National Park on Aug. 12, 2021.   (The Moab Police Department via AP, File)

Gabby Petito could have been saved if police officers in Moab, Utah, had responded differently to a 911 call around two weeks before she was murdered, her parents say in a wrongful death lawsuit. Petito's parents filed a legal claim Monday against the Moab Police Department and several of its employees, including Officers Eric Pratt and Daniel Robbins, who encountered Petito and boyfriend Brian Laundrie on Aug. 12 last year, the Salt Lake Tribune reports. They are seeking $50 million, which they plan to donate to domestic violence prevention programs.

A review earlier this year found that police made "unintentional mistakes" when they stopped Laundrie and Petito's van in the southern Utah town. They concluded that Petito had been the "primary aggressor and that Brian was a potential victim of domestic violence"—but they didn't question him on inconsistencies in his story and they didn't track down a 911 caller who said he had seen Laundrie hitting and slapping Petito, according to the legal claim. No charges were filed and police treated the case as a mental health "break" instead of a domestic violence case, NBC reports.

"Had the officers involved had training to implement proper lethality assessment and to recognize the obvious indicators of abuse, it would have been clear to them that Gabby was a victim of intimate partner violence and needed immediate protection," lawyer Brian Steward said in a statement, per Fox News. He says a photo taken during the incident shows a "close-up view of Gabby’s face where blood is smeared on her cheek and left eye, revealing the violent nature of Brian’s attack." Investigators say Laundrie killed Petitio weeks after the Moab encounter, and admitted the killing in a note found after his suicide. (More Gabby Petito stories.)

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