The Moab, Utah, police officers who encountered Gabby Petito and her fiancé a month before her body was found in Wyoming made several mistakes, an independent review released Wednesday has found.
The review conducted by Capt. Brandon Ratcliffe of the Price City Police Department in Utah found that the officers who responded to an Aug. 12 incident between Petito and Brian Laundrie had misclassified the incident. Their reports also lacked details, the review determined.
The independent investigation was done after an attorney filed a formal complaint about the incident, which raised questions about how it was handled.
The encounter began after police received a 911 call about a “domestic disturbance” involving two people driving a van. An officer pulled over the couple’s van, which Laundrie was driving, on a road heading to Arches National Park after it crossed the double yellow line and struck a curb, according to the report.
Petito told officers that she slapped Laundrie and hit him first, but the officers’ reports lacked details or documentation of any injury suffered by her, and no one appeared to ask about a scratch on her cheek, the review found. Petito had told officers that Laundrie grabbed her face.
One officer had written in a report after the encounter that it appeared the incident was “more accurately categorized as a mental/emotional health ‘break’ than a domestic assault.”
The review found the incident should have been classified as domestic violence, which would have required officers to make an arrest or issue a citation, which would have been against Petito, Ratcliffe said in the report.
State law about domestic violence also would have also required a report to be sent to prosecutors, which was not done because it was mischaracterized as disorderly conduct, the report says.
A statement from the initial 911 caller who reported “the gentleman slapping the girl” before the couple left in the van was also not taken, according to the report.
“Both written reports are missing significant details as it relates to the who, what, when, where, and how as it relates to this incident,” Ratcliffe wrote.
The officers ultimately told Petito and Laundrie that no one would be charged, and said they had to spend the night apart and were not to have any contact until the next day, the report says. Petito was left with the van and police took Laundrie to a motel.
Petito and Laundrie had been on a cross country trip in the van, which they documented online.
Petito’s family on Long Island, New York, said they last heard from her in late August. Her body was found on Sept. 19 at a campground in Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming, and her death was later ruled a homicide.
Laundrie was named a person of interest in Petito’s disappearance after he returned to Florida in the van on Sept. 1 without Petito. Laundrie disappeared and was found dead in October of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in Florida’s Carlton Reserve.
Ratcliffe wrote that it was “an impossible question to answer” whether the 22-year-old would be alive today if the officers had treated the incident differently, but said blame for her death rests with “the person or persons directly responsible … weeks after and several hundred miles away from their August 12th incident in Moab.”
The review recommends that the two officers, Eric Pratt and Daniel Scott Robbins, be placed on probation.
Pratt has been with the Moab Police Department since 2018 and has 16 years of law enforcement experience, the report says. Robbins was hired in May 2021 and in the final phase of a field training program.
Phone numbers for Robbins and Pratt could not immediately be found Wednesday night.
In the report, Pratt said he accepted responsibility for any actions he took that were found to be wrong.
“I am devastated about it,” he said in an interview included in the review. “I cared that day and I still care.”
Robbins said in the report that he knows he made mistakes that day and has learned from the encounter.
The report also recommends additional training and policy changes — including that photographs be taken of the injuries of everyone involved.
The city of Moab in a statement said that it intends to follow the report’s recommendations. It said the officers made a series of unintentional mistakes and believes they acted with respect and empathy.
Source: This post first appeared on NBC News