‘s family has filed a lawsuit against police in Moab, Utah, accusing them of negligence that led to the 22-year-old’s death last year. They are demanding $50 million in damages.
The lawsuit, filed by attorneys representing Joseph and Tara Petito and Nichole and Jim Schmidt, calls the Moab Police Department; three of his officers: “Palmer”, “Pratt” and Daniel Robbins; and 10 other unnamed defendants, accusing them of “negligent failure” in their investigation of an alleged assault between Petito and her fiancé, Brian Laundrie, several weeks prior to her murder.
They also charge all defendants with “wrongful death” and say Petito’s “death was caused by their wrongful acts or negligence.”
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Prior to her death,after she and Laundrie had a verbal and physical altercation in August 2021. Lawyers hired by Petito’s parents claim the officers “failed in their duty to protect Gabby”.
According to the lawsuit, a 911 caller reported seeing Laundrie punch and punch Petito as he chased her down a sidewalk in Moab. Another witness said they saw the two talking “aggressively” and that “something wasn’t right” – they said it looked like Laundrie grabbed her phone, got into their van and tried to leave her, before climbing over him and in the van.
An officer, identified by the lawsuit as Daniel Robbins, found the couple’s van too fast on a highway, lurched over the center yellow line and hit a curb, the lawsuit said. The van then stopped outside Arches National Park, where Robbins separated the two and spoke to them.
Robbins was later joined by his superior, identified in the lawsuit as Officer Pratt, and two park rangers.
Bodycam photos of the officers’ interviews with the two were previously released to the public, but according to the lawsuit, the photos do not provide the full picture of what actually happened. An unreleased photo of Petito from that day reportedly shows blood smeared on her cheek and her left eye, as well as the fact that Laundrie grabbed her over her nose and mouth.
The lawsuit also includes the photos released to the public, one of which shows a mark on her skin. When asked about it, Petito told the officer Laundrie had grabbed her.
During questioning, Petito showed “the classic characteristics of an abused partner,” according to the lawsuit, in an attempt to take blame for the incident and ask to stay with Laundrie.
In turn, Laundrie told the police that Petito tried to hit him, and he pushed her. At one point, he said he tried to take Petito’s phone because he didn’t have one, but later showed officers his own phone. Laundrie also claimed he wanted him and Petito to take separate walks while in Moab, contradicting witnesses’ statements that he tried to drive away in the van.
The lawsuit accuses the officers of failing to question Laundrie about his inconsistencies. Instead, they found Petito the “primary aggressor” and Laundrie the victim. At this point, Pratt told the two that he would have to arrest Petitio, which neither of them wanted.
Pratt called his superior, Assistant Chief Palmer, who told him to “read the assault statute carefully” and decide what to do. The lawsuit alleges that Pratt only read part of it and misunderstood the law — he believed sexual assault is a crime only if the person is “with intent to cause bodily harm.”
Pratt then told Robbins, who was his junior, to decide. Robbins said he did not believe Petito and decided not to press charges, but to pass it on to the city attorney. Meanwhile, Pratt Robbins warned that if the couple disagreed with his decision, “you might hear about it in a very negative way,” the lawsuit said.
A park ranger also disagreed with the decision, saying that “she would rather be ‘dropped to a decision I made than to a decision I didn’t make'”. in your decision,” the lawsuit said. Pratt followed by saying he would support Robbins’ decision.
When Robbins filed a subpoena, Pratt asked if he’d rather respond to another call that had just come in. Robbins stayed, but said he wasn’t sure how to proceed.
In consultation with Pratt, Robbins split Laundrie and Petito for the night. Pratt said if the couple later found their way back to each other, it would not be their responsibility, the lawsuit alleges.
Shortly after,Petito to death in the Grand Teton National Forest in Wyoming.
Petito’s family conducted an independent investigation into the agents’ response and found that “the agents made several mistakes and could not rule out the possibility that Gabby’s murder could have been prevented if the agents had handled the situation properly.”
The Petito family’s lawyers also added stories from local newspapers alleging problems with the Moab Police Department. In one, several officers were charged with drinking with minors while on the job. None of the articles mention any of the officers named in the lawsuit.
“While the full evidence has not yet been made public, when released it will clearly show that if the officers were properly trained and followed the law, Gabby would still be alive today,” said James McConkie, one of the family attorneys. , said in a statement. “Failing to comply with the law can have deadly consequences, as was the case in this case.”
The family is demanding $50 million in damages.
Petito’s family also served a, who they said knew what had happened to their daughter and where her body was while she was still missing. They are demanding $30,000 in damages.
Christopher and Roberta Laundrie responded to the lawsuit in March, calling the allegations “baseless” and “frivolous” and.