By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
The family of Gabby Petito filed a wrongful death lawsuit on Monday against a Utah police department, accusing officers of failing to properly investigate her domestic violence case and protect her.
Petito was reported missing in September 2021 and was found in Bridger-Teton National Forest just days later. She died by strangulation and had been in the forest for at least three weeks by the time she was discovered.
Brian Laundrie, Petito’s fiance, disappeared not long after she was reported missing. In October 2021, his body was discovered, along with a notebook that contained a confession to Petito’s murder. Laundrie died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The lawsuit is against the Moab City Police Department and several specific officers, according to NBC News. It centers around a police encounter Petito and Laundrie had with police on Aug. 12, 2021.
In body camera footage taken during the incident, Petito told officers she and Laundrie were in a physical fight.
However, neither Petito nor Laundrie wanted to press charges against the other.
An independent review, completed in January, found the officers made several mistakes in handling that case, such as misclassifying it as more of a mental/emotional health issue rather than domestic violence and lacking details in their reports.
Some of the missing details included documentation of any injuries Petito may have suffered. No one asked Laundrie about a scratch on Petito’s cheek, either, NBC News reported.
In the lawsuit filing, lawyers for Petito’s family argued that had police officers involved in that incident had proper training, they would know “Gabby was a victim of intimate partner violence” and needed “immediate protection.”
“The officers did not question Brian about the 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 lawsuit said.
The Laundrie family attorney wished the Petito-Schmidt family “best of luck” in the suit, but also said he does not believe that the officers involved did anything wrong.
“The Moab police, in my view, did not contribute to the death of Gabby Petito in any way,” Steve Bertolino, the attorney, said. “My understanding of the Moab incident is that Gabby was the aggressor and admitted on camera to hitting Brian first.”