An independent review released Wednesday found that the police officers in Moab, Utah, who encountered Gabby Petito and her fiancé a month before her body was discovered in Wyoming made several mistakes.
The investigation, led by Capt. Brandon Ratcliffe of the Price City Police Department in Utah, discovered that officers who responded to an Aug. 12 incident involving Petito and her fiancé, Brian Laundrie, misclassified the incident. The review found that their reports lacked detail as well.
After a lawyer filed a formal complaint raising concerns about how the incident was handled, an independent investigation was launched.
The altercation began when police received a 911 call reporting a “domestic disturbance” involving two people driving a van. According to the report, an officer pulled over Laundrie’s van on a road leading to Arches National Park after it crossed the double yellow line and hit a curb.
Petito told officers that she slapped and hit Laundrie first, but the officers’ reports lacked details or documentation of any injuries she sustained, and no one appeared to inquire about a scratch on her cheek, according to the review. Petito reported to officers that Laundrie had grabbed her face.
According to one officer’s report, the incident appeared to be “more accurately categorized as a mental/emotional health ‘break’ than a domestic assault.”
According to Ratcliffe’s report, the review determined that the incident should have been classified as domestic violence, which would have required officers to make an arrest or issue a citation against Petito.
According to the report, state law regarding domestic violence would have also required a report to be sent to prosecutors, which was not done because the incident was mischaracterized as disorderly conduct.
According to the report, no statement was taken from the initial 911 caller who reported “the gentleman slapping the girl” before the couple left in the van.
Ratcliffe wrote, “Both written reports are missing significant details as it relates to the who, what, when, where, and how as it relates to this incident.”
According to the report, the officers eventually told Petito and Laundrie that no one would be charged and that they needed to spend the night apart and not have any contact until the next day. Petito was left in charge of the van, while police transported Laundrie to a motel.
Petito and Laundrie had been on a cross-country van trip, which they had documented online.
Petito’s family on Long Island, New York, said she had not been heard from since late August. Her body was discovered on September 19 at a campground in Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton National Forest, and her death was ruled a homicide.
Laundrie was identified as a person of interest in Petito’s disappearance after he returned to Florida in the van without her on September 1. In October, Laundrie went missing and was discovered dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in Florida’s Carlton Reserve.
Ratcliffe wrote that it was “impossible to say” whether Petito, 22, would be alive today if the officers had handled the incident differently. He stated that “the person or persons directly responsible… weeks after and several hundred miles away from their August 12th incident in Moab” are to blame for her death.
The review recommends that Eric Pratt and Daniel Scott Robbins be placed on probation.
According to the report, Pratt has been with the Moab Police Department since 2018 and has 16 years of law enforcement experience. Robbins was hired in May and was nearing the end of a field training program.
Robbins and Pratt’s phone numbers were not immediately available Wednesday night.
Pratt stated in the report that he accepted responsibility for any actions that were discovered to be incorrect.
Robbins stated in the report that he is aware of his mistakes and has learned from the experience.
The report also suggests additional training and policy changes, such as requiring photographs of all injuries sustained in incidents.
In a statement, the city of Moab stated that it intends to implement the recommendations of the report. It stated that the officers made a number of unintentional errors, but that it believes they acted with respect and empathy.