Gabby Petito’s Parents Announce Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against Moab Police Over Brian Laundrie’s 911 Call

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FIRST ON FOX: Attorneys for Gabby Petito’s parents announced Monday they will file a $50 million wrongful death lawsuit against the Moab Police Department, two officers who interacted with her a few days before his death and two former leaders.

The family alleges Moab officers Eric Pratt and Daniel Robbins mishandled a 911 call in which a witness claimed to have seen Brian Laundrie hit Petito and try to steal her phone and leave without her in the middle of the center -city of Moab.

Fox News Digital was the first to report the national 911 call on August 12, 2021 last year. About two weeks after Moab police arrested the couple at the entrance to Arches National Park, Laundrie reportedly bludgeoned Petito and strangled her to death at a campground in Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton National Forest, where they had traveled as part of their cross-country van road trip.

“Had the officers involved been trained to perform a proper lethality assessment and to recognize clear indicators of abuse, it would have been clear to them that Gabby was a victim of domestic violence and needed immediate protection,” said Brian Stewart, an attorney for the family, said in a statement.

GABBY PETITO’S MOTHER SLAMS BRIAN LAUNDRIE’S NOTEBOOK CONFESSION

He also said a previously undisclosed photo of Petito taken during the incident shows “a close view of Gabby’s face where blood is smeared across her cheek and left eye, revealing the violent nature of Gabby’s attack. Brian”. It also shows that she was “grabbed by the nose and mouth, which potentially restricted her airways.”

At a press conference announcing the trial on Monday, Petito’s parents appeared remotely via Zoom.

Nichole Schmidt, his mother, used an image of a very young Petito as an avatar for the call.

Nichole Schmidt used an image of a very young Petito on her lap as an avatar during the virtual press conference.

Nichole Schmidt used an image of a very young Petito on her lap as an avatar during the virtual press conference.
(Hunter Richards for Fox News Digital)

The Notice of Claim, filed Friday but made public Monday, names Pratt and Robbins, former Moab Police Chief Bret Edge and former Deputy Chief Braydon Palmer.

Edge went on leave shortly after the Petito case made national headlines, then briefly returned to the department. He was replaced in the post by new city leader Jared Garcia in May.

Lawyers for Gabby Petito's family say new photographic evidence shows injuries she suffered before the Moab 911 call.

Lawyers for Gabby Petito’s family say new photographic evidence shows injuries she suffered before the Moab 911 call.
(Parker + McConkie)

When contacted for comment, he simply said, “I’m no longer with the Moab police.

The text of the complaint specifically focuses on Pratt’s actions during the shutdown. He had seniority over Robbins, a relatively new officer, and on body camera video, he seemed reluctant to charge Petito with a crime. He had apparently determined that she was the attacker, not Laundrie.

“Officer Pratt called Deputy Chief Palmer to ask for assistance on how to handle the situation,” the filing said. “Chief Palmer asked Constable Pratt to read the assault law carefully and decide if the situation met the law. Constable Pratt Googled the law. After reading only the first half of the law, Constable Pratt ruled – erroneously – that Utah law recognizes assault only if the perpetrator intended to cause bodily harm.”

This police camera video provided by the Moab Police Department shows Gabrielle

This police camera video provided by the Moab Police Department shows Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito talking to a police officer after police stopped the van she was traveling in with her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, near the entrance to Arches National Park on August 12. 2021.
(The Moab Police Department via AP)

an independent survey of Moab’s response the call “concluded that the officers made several errors and could not rule out that Gabby’s murder could have been avoided had the officers handled the situation properly,” the filing said.

The Moab Police Department has come under intense scrutiny after a pair of body camera videos of Officers Pratt and Robbins emerged showing its response to the Petito-Laundrie dispute, in which police did not made no arrests or citations despite a Utah law requiring one to be issued in domestic violence incidents. After interviewing Petito and Laundrie, as well as another witness, officers ruled out domestic violence and called the incident a “mental health break.”

Petito appeared visibly shaken throughout the encounter and told officers that Laundrie grabbed his face while gesturing towards his neck. But officers seemed to consider her the attacker – and they seemed reluctant to arrest the distressed little woman at the time. But they didn’t even seem to consider Laundrie a potential suspect despite the 911 caller alleging he was an attacker.

Price, Utah, Police Captain Brandon Ratcliffe conducted the review and made a number of recommendations, including testing Pratt and Robbins and implementing increased training programs.

Moab did not provide Fox News Digital with any documentation, commentary, or confirmation that any of these recommendations had been followed. A city spokesperson declined to comment on Monday citing an ongoing litigation policy.

The department’s website, however, shows that Moab has added several officers over the past year and was hiring a new detective to be the department’s domestic violence specialist.

Moab Mayor Joette Langianese, who was elected months after the incident, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Screenshots from police body camera in Moab, Utah on August 12, 2021 show the couple following a domestic violence call.

Screenshots from police body camera in Moab, Utah on August 12, 2021 show the couple following a domestic violence call.
(Moab DB)

Petito’s parents, Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt, and his in-laws, Tara Petito and Jim Schmidt, retained the services of the law firm Parker and McConkie in Utah to handle the case. In 2020, the firm successfully represented the family of Lauren McCluskey, a 21-year-old University of Utah student who repeatedly sought help from campus police before a 37-year-old man shot her outside her dorm in 2018. That case resulted in a $13.5 million settlement with the school.

“The purpose of this lawsuit is only part of the family’s larger effort to raise awareness and educate, to protect victims of domestic violence and to help ensure that our government institutions are held accountable and that ‘They’re getting the resources and the training that they need to do their job,’ Stewart said at a news conference Monday.

Attorneys for the Petito and Schmidt families announced a notice of claim against Moab police at a press conference in Salt Lake City on Monday, August 8.  Left to right, Brad Park, Steven Jensen, Brian Stewart, Jim McConkie.

Attorneys for the Petito and Schmidt families announced a notice of claim against Moab police at a press conference in Salt Lake City on Monday, August 8. Left to right, Brad Park, Steven Jensen, Brian Stewart, Jim McConkie.
(Hunter Richards for Fox News Digital)

“We believe these officers were negligent and their negligence contributed to Gabby’s death,” Stewart told reporters, later adding, “They didn’t understand the law and didn’t apply the law properly. in Gabby’s situation”.

The new file also reveals that Petito called her parents during the shutdown, and they wanted her to come home and get away from Laundrie. They even offered to pay for a ride to Salt Lake City and a flight home, but upon learning the police were involved, they “accepted Gabby’s assurances that she would continue her journey,” the document states.

BRIAN LAUNDRIE FOUND: PARENTS MAY HAVE JUST MISSED TO DISCOVER THE REMAINS THEMSELVES

Steve Bertolino, lawyer for Laundrie’s parents, said their son didn’t tell them about the Moab incident, and they only learned about it when Fox News Digital broke the Moab 911 call last September.

Gabby Petito in an undated photograph.

Gabby Petito in an undated photograph.
(North Port Police)

GABBY PETITO HOMICIDE: TIMELINE OF DISAPPEARANCE WITH BRIAN LAUNDRIE

“I don’t know if they did everything wrong,” he said of the officers. “Everyone assumes it was judgmental. People don’t deserve to be arrested for having a fight with someone they love.”

Laundrie later confessed to murder in a handwritten note found near his remains at Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park, where the FBI said he killed himself after sneaking under the noses of North Port Florida police.

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After their daughter’s death, Petito’s parents and in-laws established a nonprofit organization in her honor, the Gabby Petito Foundation, to raise awareness about domestic violence and missing persons.

“I think Gabby’s story touched a lot of people, and she saves lives,” Petito’s mother, Nichole Schmidt, said in a statement. “I get people telling me all the time that they were inspired by her to get out of a relationship.”

The Petito and Schmidt families are also sue Laundrie’s parents in two separate cases in Florida.

“All we can hope for is that Gabby’s legacy will be positive,” Jim Schmidt said at the press conference. “Let people see it and recognize it and maybe compare what they’re going through in their life and make a positive change.”

The family urges anyone who finds themselves trapped in an abusive relationship to speak up and seek help.

“Reach out if you can,” Nichole Schmidt said during the briefing, wiping tears from her eyes. “Reach out to someone.”

“There are people who care,” added Petito’s father, Joseph Petito. “People should know that there are people who will do whatever they can to help.”

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233.

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