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Police in Utah made 'unintentional mistakes' in Gabby Petito incident, review says

petito bodycam web.jpg
Posted at 8:02 PM, Jan 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-12 21:08:53-05

MOAB, Utah (KSTU) — A review of the Moab Police Department claims two of its officers made "several unintentional mistakes" in failing to cite Gabby Petito for domestic violence.

The report, conducted by a captain with the Price Police Department in Utah, stems from an Aug. 12 incident in which officers questioned Petito and her fiance, Brian Laundrie, about a potential assault.

Bodycam video of police questioning the couple was shared across the world as the search for Petito continued. Many wonder if the final outcome would have been different if the officers had responded in a different manner.

"Would Gabby be alive today if this case was handled differently? That is an impossible question to answer despite it being the answer many people want to know. Nobody knows and nobody will ever know the answer to that question," wrote Capt. Brandon Ratcliffe.

An officer pulled the couple's van over after a 911 call was received about a possible assault. When the officer approached, Petito was "crying uncontrollably" in the passenger seat.

Officers had determined that Petito was the aggressor and that Utah law says police shall cite or arrest aggressors in domestic violence assaults. Instead, officers described the incident "more accurately as a mental/emotional health ‘break’ than a domestic assault," according to the original police report and separated the couple for the night.

The 102-page report also faulted the department for never obtaining a statement from the 911 caller who reported seeing the alleged assault.

Recommendations were given in the report about improving training and upgrading software that Moab police are currently using, including providing additional training in domestic violence investigations, as well as additional legal training to ensure officers understand state laws and statutes.

In a statement Wednesday, the City of Moab praised the officers, saying they "showed kindness, respect and empathy in their handling of this incident."

Petito was last seen in Salt Lake City 12 days after the traffic stop in Moab. Her body was found about a month later near a dispersed campground in the Bridger-Teton National Forest along the east boundary of Grant Teton National Park. An autopsy determined she was strangled.

Laundrie died by suicide after returning home to Florida.

This story was originally reported by Nate Carlisle on fox13now.com.