An independent review determined that the Moeb (Utah) police officers who encountered Gabby Petito with her fiancé Brian Laundrie a month before her body was found in Wyoming made several critical mistakes.
The investigative review, released to the public on Wednesday and conducted by Capt. Brandon Ratcliffe of the Price City Police Department in Utah, discovered that the officers who responded to an Aug. 12 incident misclassified what happened between Petito and Laundrie, writing that the report lacked necessary details.
The independent investigation was conducted after a formal complaint was filed by a lawyer that rose questions about how the incident was treated by the police officers on duty. The review recommends that the two officers, Eric Pratt and Daniel Scott Robbins, be placed on probation.
After Gabby Petito’s death:Her father is helping domestic violence victims
“Both written reports are missing significant details as it relates to the who, what, when, where, and how as it relates to this incident,” Ratcliffe wrote in the report.
The initial Moab police report outlined how the encounter began after police received a 911 call about a “domestic disturbance” involving two people driving a van. An officer pulled over the van, which Laundrie was driving, on a road heading to Arches National Park after it crossed the double yellow line and struck a curb.
The report reflected how officers sensitively tried to work with the couple who, in separate interviews with the officers, described how life wasn’t easy on the road for them.
“Gabrielle, who was in the passenger seat, was crying uncontrollably,” an officer wrote in the Aug. 13 report.
Officers wrote that the couple – while battling self-described mental health issues that led to Petito slapping Laundrie – were intelligently and sensitively trying to work out their issues.
Laundrie told the officer that he and Petito both suffered from the same mental health problem, although the specific problem’s name was redacted in the report. He told the investigating officer that Petito had “more advanced” issues than his own, and that friction had been building between them for several days. Neither took medication for their condition, Laundrie told the officer.
The independent review found that the incident should have been classified as domestic violence – not just a mental health dispute -– which would have required officers to make an arrest or issue a citation against Petito, Ratcliffe wrote in the report.
Petito told the officers that she slapped Laundrie and hit him first but the officers’ reports lacked details of any injury she suffered. No officer appeared to ask Laundrie about a scratch on Petito’s cheek, although Petito had told officers that Laundrie grabbed her face.
Petito went missing in late August during a cross-country trip with Laundrie. A few weeks later, her remains were found in Teton County, Wyoming, with a coroner ruling her death a homicide by strangulation.
Laundrie was named a person of interest in Petito’s disappearance and later disappeared himself before being found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in Florida’s Carlton Reserve in October.
Contributing: Michael James