Gabby Petito’s family files $50 million wrongful death lawsuit against Utah police

Gabby Petito’s family announced a wrongful death lawsuit against police in Moab, Utah on Monday, accusing the department of failing to properly investigate her domestic violence case and failing to protect her.

The lawsuit, which seeks $50 million in damages, comes around the first anniversary of Petito’s death.

Petito was 22 when she was reported missing in September 2021. She was on a month-long trip across the country and lived in a van with her fiancé, Brian Laundrie.

Petito’s body was found in Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming on September 19, 2021. She was determined to have since died. at least three weeks and his death was ruled a homicide by “manual strangulation”. Laundrie, who has been named a person of interest in the case, was found dead of self-inflicted gunshot wound on Florida’s Carlton Reservation in October 2021.

Laundrie admitted to killing Petito in writings found after his death.

The Notice of Intent to File, which is required before suing government entities, was filed against the City of Moab Police Department Chief Bret Edge, exDeputy Chief Braydon Palmer and Officers Eric Pratt and Daniel Robbins.

The City of Moab Police Department did not immediately respond to an NBC News request for comment. A representative for the city of Moab said he does not comment on ongoing litigation.

Gabrielle Petito and Brian Laundrie.
Gabrielle Petito and Brian Laundrie.@gabspetito / via Instagram

The costume will be centered on a police encounter with Petito and Laundrie August 12, 2021during their trip to Utah, shortly before his death.

This interaction made headlines after Petito disappeared, with body camera footage released showing Petito visibly distraught. According to the police report, Petito told officers she slapped Laundrie and punched him first and he grabbed her face.

But in the end, Petito and Laundrie said they didn’t want to press charges and that they loved each other.

A independent review, completed in January this year, revealed officers made several errors in handling the case – incorrectly labeling it a mental/emotional health “break” rather than domestic violence, and lacking details in their reports.

Their reports lacked details or documentation of any injuries Petito suffered – and no one appeared to ask Laundrie for a scratch on Petito’s cheek, the Independent Review found.

In the new filing, attorneys for the Petito family say that if the officers involved in the incident had received proper training — teaching them how to perform a thorough lethality assessment and recognize signs of abuse — they would know that “Gabby was a victim of domestic violence” and needed “immediate protection.

During this incident, Laundrie and Petito were stopped in their van by officers who saw the vehicle accelerate, cross the double yellow line and hit a sidewalk near Arches National Park. A witness had called the police, reporting seeing Laundrie “slap” Petito.

Officer Daniels and Robbins interviewed Petito and Laundrie separately.

Robbins said he observed cuts on Gabby’s cheek and arm in her report, but court documents said that when questioned about her fight with Laundrie, she “displayed the classic characteristics of an abused partner. “trying to take the blame by saying she hit him. first and didn’t want to be separated from him.

Attorneys for the Petito family said a new photo, which has not yet been made public, shows a close-up of Gabby’s face “where blood is smeared across her cheek and left eye.”

“The photo shows Gabby’s face was caught by her nose and mouth, potentially restricting her airway,” the filing reads.

While speaking with officers, Laundrie told Officer Robbins he pushed Gabby away to avoid being slapped and admitted to taking her phone saying he didn’t have one. But later in that same interview, he pulled his own phone out of his pocket, the document said.

“Officers did not question Brian about inconsistencies in his version of events. Instead, they determined that Gabby was the primary aggressor and that Brian was a potential victim of domestic violence,” the document states.

Under Utah’s domestic violence law, officers would have been required to send a report to prosecutors, but that was not done as the incident was mischaracterized as conduct disorderly, the Independent Review of Police Interaction said.

The deposit said Officer Pratt called Deputy Chief Palmer for help on how to handle the situation and was told to read the assault law carefully and decide if the situation was in accordance with the law.

Pratt ruled that Utah law only recognizes assaults if the perpetrator intended to cause bodily harm — which the lawsuit says is an incorrect interpretation. When Pratt asked Gabby if she intended to cause Laundrie bodily harm when she hit him, she replied no.

Eventually, the police told the couple to separate for the night and no charges were filed.

James McConkie, one of the lawyers retained in the case, said: “Although all the evidence has not yet been made public, when it is released it will clearly show that had the officers been properly trained and had obeyed the law, Gabby would still be alive today.”

“Failure to follow the law can have deadly consequences, as was the case in this case,” he said.

He claimed the Moab City Police Department had “chronic problems protecting” victims of domestic violence by failing to provide officers with training and resources.

“This is an institutional failure, plain and simple,” he said.

The lawsuit is in addition to another complaint filed by the Petito family in Florida against Laundrie’s parents, accusing them of obstructing the search for their daughter and alleging that they knew Laundrie killed Petito.

Petito’s mother, Nicole Schmidt, wiped away tears during a press conference on Monday.

“It just brings back a lot of pain,” she said. “We are going to do everything we can. That’s why we are here.

Schmidt recalled seeing the body camera footage of the police in question saying, “Watching him is very painful. I wanted to jump across the screen and save her.

She shared a message to victims currently in abusive relationships, saying: “Reach out when you can and get the help you need… You can get out. Just do it safely. Contact someone whom you can trust.”

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