Gabby Petito Lawsuit Claims Cop Knew Fiancé Was Mental, Emotional Threat

By Jason Hall

March 2, 2023

Photo: @gabspetito/Instagram

A new lawsuit filed by the family of Gabby Petito accuses a Utah officer of being aware that her fiancé, Brian Laundrie, was an "emotional and mental threat to" Petito prior to her death, FOX News reports.

Lawyers for Petito's parents, Nichole Schmidt and Joseph Petito, revealed transcripts of an interview between Moab Police Officer Eric Pratt, who spoke with the couple during an alleged domestic incident, and a Price police captain as part of an independent review of the incident.

"I took my 16 years of experience, and said I believed Gabby based on the totality of circumstances and based on what she appears physically capable of and based off what I saw him doing and acting the way he was acting, I don’t think she assaulted him," Pratt said, according to the lawsuit, via FOX News.

Witnesses told police that they saw Laundrie -- believed to have later strangled and bludgeoned Petito to death in the Bridger-Teton National Forest several weeks prior to his own death -- hitting the 22-year-old in public.

Officers made contact with the couple near Arches National Park, but no charges were filed, despite a Utah statute that requires police to make an arrest or issue a citation in relation to potential domestic incidents. The amended lawsuit accused Pratt of willful misconduct, as well as the Moab Police Department of failing to implement a "lethality assessment protocol" in adherence with the state statute.

Petito, who appeared to be visibly shaken while speaking to police, told officers that Laundrie had grabbed her face while gesturing toward her neck, but authorities deemed her to be the aggressor and didn't appear to view Laundrie as a potential suspect at the time, despite witnesses calling 911 alleging that he had hit her in public. Pratt's statement in the transcript appear to contradict the department's ruling on the situation at the time.

Pratt also reportedly described Laundrie as "a weird, not healthy dude, and that was clear," adding that he had "red flags" and "looked unsavory," according to the lawsuit.

"I thought he was an emotional threat to her," Pratt allegedly said via FOX News. "I thought he was a mental threat to her."

On September 30, 2021, police released bodycam footage which showing Petito telling an officer that an argument with Laundrie got physical on August 21, 2021.

Officers pulled over the van Laundrie and Petito were traveling in on their cross-country trip and Petito told officers that she initially slapped Laundrie before he retaliated.

"I guess, but I hit him first," Petito said when asked by an officer if Laundrie hit her in the face.

"Where did he hit you? Don’t worry. Just be honest," the officer asked.

"Well, he grabbed my face," Petito said.

"Did he slap your face? Or what?" the officer responded.

"Well like, yeah he grabbed me with his nail, and I guess that’s why I definitely have a cut right here because I can feel it when I touch it, it burns," she said, while holding her jaw and crying.

The video then shows Laundrie recanting his side of the incident.

"She gets really worked up, and when she does she swings, and she had her cellphone in her hand, so I was just trying to push her away," Laundrie said.

The Parker & McConkie law firm, which represents Petito's parents in the lawsuit, also shared a selfie taken by Gabby in which she appears to have blood, swelling and visible marks on her face just prior to the traffic stop.

On October 12, 2021, Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue -- who performed an autopsy on Petito -- announced her death was ruled as a death by strangulation and the manner of death to be a homicide during a press conference. Laundrie, the lone person of interest in connection to Petito's disappearance and death, was discovered weeks later at the Carlton Reserve campsite near his family's Florida home and confirmed to have died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, his family's attorney, Steve Bertolino, confirmed to TMZ.

Dr. Blue said Petito's death is believed to have occurred 3-4 weeks prior to her remains being found on September 19, 2021 and confirmed to match her days later. Dr. Blue confirmed the ruling was made while working alongside local and federal authorities. No other information will be released in adherence with state law.

Laundrie was the center of a publicized search by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and local authorities at the Carlton Reserve prior to his remains being discovered. Police later confirmed that a confession letter written by Laundrie was also found. Petito's parents had previously been rewarded $3 million in relation to a wrongful death lawsuit against Laundrie's parents in November 2022, CNN reported at the time.

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