MOAB, Utah, Oct. 1, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — Moab police on Friday released body-camera footage from a second officer who was on the scene of an incident involving Gabby Petito and her fiancé Brian Laundrie on Aug. 12.
Laundrie, 23, has been named a person of interest in Petito’s murder. The couple, who shared a home with Laundrie’s parents in Florida, had been traveling across the western U.S., including stops in Utah, before Gabby’s disappearance near the end of August.
Petito, 22, was reported missing on Sept. 11. Laundrie returned home on Sept. 1, driving Petito’s van, but without her.
He declined to cooperate with authorities, as did his parents, although on Sept 17 they relented and told investigators Laundrie had gone missing on Tuesday, Sept. 14 and may have been headed to a nearby nature reserve. The manhunt for Laundrie continues.
On Sept. 19, FBI agents found the remains believed to be Petito’s in an area where the couple had been camping in Grand Teton National Park. Two days later, the FBI confirmed the human remains were those of the missing woman, and her manner of death was homicide. The cause of death has not yet been released.
The body-camera footage, which is 51 minutes and 55 seconds long, shows the sequence of events after the couple was pulled over at the entrance to Arches National Park after officers reported the couple’s van, driven by Laundrie, was traveling at 45 mph in a 15mph road. Officers then reported the vehicle had bumped into a curb.
The second officer approaches the white van driven by Laundrie, and speaks with him.
“Hey, we got a call about a male hitting a female,” the officer says, “and the two of them getting in this vehicle and taking off.”
“Sorry, I, I, I, I don’t have time to defend myself by sitting here,” Laundrie replies. “But I pushed her away. She gets really worked up, and when she does she swings and she had her cell phone in her hand. So, I was just trying to push her away.”
Later in the video, Petito tells the officer that while Laundrie had hit her, she hit him first.
“You slapped him first? And just on his face?” the officer can be heard asking Petito. “Well, he kept telling me to shut up,” Petito says.
“Did he hit you, though? I mean, it’s OK if you’re saying you hit him, and then I understand if he hit you, but we want to know the truth if he actually hit you, because you know…,” the officer says.
“I guess, I guess, yeah, but I hit him first,” Petito responds. The officer then asks her where Laundrie hit her.
“Well, he like grabbed my face, like, I guess. He didn’t like, hit me in the face. He didn’t, like, punch me in the face or anything,” Petito answers.
“Did he slap your face or what?” the officer says.
“Well he, like, grabbed me with his nail, and I guess that’s why it looks… definitely I was cut right here because I can feel it. When I touch it, it burns,” Petito says, pointing to her cheek.
Subsequently, Petito pleads with the officers not to separate her from Laundrie, saying “like we’re a team, please. It’s going to give me so much anxiety. Can we just have, like, a driving ticket?”
“The very best thing I can do is call my supervisor and see if I’m missing something here,” the officer responds.
Petito, while sobbing, offers to pay any ticket, and the officer tells her to try and calm down. The officer goes back to his car and calls his supervisor.
“But is there a way to not do anything on this?” the officer says to the supervisor. “I mean it’s so minor. It’s hard to say, right?”
It is not clear what the supervisor says, but the officer is subsequently seen speaking with his colleague at the scene.
“In no way shape or form that I can perceive does what happened here, a little slap fight between fiancés who love each other and want to be together, can I perceive that this is going to digress into a situation where he’s going to be a battered man, but then again I don’t have a crystal ball,” the officer says.
He then adds: “Society and the judges and everyone can judge me for this. I am looking at a 110-pound female and her fiancé who have no means to be separated. He doesn’t want to pursue it. She’s not a threat to him.”
It was announced on Sept. 23 that the city of Moab had launched an investigation into the Moab City Police Department’s handling of the incident.
Moab City said in a statement the police department has received both praise and criticism for “their response and their resolution of the incident involving Ms. Petito and Mr. Laundrie.”
The statement added: “The Moab City Police Department has clear standards for officer conduct during a possible domestic dispute and our officers are trained to follow those standards and protocol. At this time, the city of Moab is unaware of any breach of police department policy during this incident. However, the city will conduct a formal investigation and, based on the results, will take any next steps that may be appropriate.”
The statement went on to say: “We understand that individuals can view the same situation in very different ways, and we recognize how the death of Ms. Petito more than two weeks later in Wyoming might lead to speculation, in hindsight, about actions taken during the incident in Moab. The purpose of the city’s formal investigation is to gather the underlying facts and evidence necessary to make a thorough, informed evaluation of such actions.”
The police department will make all information from the Petito incident available to agencies investigating her death, and officers will also be available to answer any questions, the statement said.
On Monday, it was revealed that Moab City Police Chief Bret Edge has requested leave following the controversy over the department’s handling of the incident.
Edge requested time off through the Family Medical Leave Act, Lisa Church, the Moab’s communication manager told Gephardt Daily. It is not known if the request is in any way connected to the altercation involving Petito and Laundrie.
Church said no other details will be released at this time; it is not known when Edge will return to the department.
To see the body-camera footage from the first officer, that was released on Sept. 16, click here.
Gephardt Daily will have more on this developing story as information is made available.