The family of Gabby Petito is filing a $50 million wrongful death lawsuit against the Moab City Police Department. The lawsuit accuses the department of failing to protect Petito after they responded to a report of a domestic disturbance between Petito and her fiancee Brian Laundrie.
Police questioned the pair, and Petito admitted that she struck Laundrie first, and he retaliated by grabbing her face. Petito and Laundrie told officers they did not want to press charges and were allowed to leave.
An independent review of the August 12th stop found that the responding officers misclassified the encounter "as a mental/emotional health' break." The review said that the incident should have been classified as domestic violence, which would have required officers to make an arrest or issue a citation. The report noted that based on the evidence, Petito would have been the one charged.
In addition, the police report lacked key details about the stop and any injuries Petito may have suffered, including a scratch on her cheek.
"Both written reports are missing significant details as it relates to the who, what, when, where, and how as it relates to this incident," Capt. Brandon Ratcliffe of the Price City Police Department wrote in the report.
Shortly after the police stop, Laundrie killed Petito and discarded her body in the Teton National Forest in Wyoming. Laundrie killed himself a few months later, and his body was found in a Florida nature reserve. Before he died, Laundrie confessed to killing Petito in a water-logged notebook found near his body.
Lawyers for the Petito family said that the officers were not adequately trained to handle domestic violence calls.
"While the full evidence has not yet been made public, when it is released, it will clearly show that if the officers had been properly trained and followed the law, Gabby would still be alive today," said James McConkie, an attorney with Parker & McConkie in a statement.
"The Moab City Police Department has neglected its duty to provide the training and resources its officers need to do their job. This is an institutional failure plain and simple," McConkie added.