Audio Recordings Show Police Officers Were Told Brian Laundrie Hit Gabby Petito Before Stop

"A male hit a female," dispatchers told officers on Aug. 12

Authorities have released audio recordings from the August 12 domestic dispute between Gabby Petito and fiancé Brian Laundrie — and the recordings, obtained by Fox 13, show that dispatchers told police officers that Laundrie had hit Petito.

"RP [reporting party] states a male hit a female," the dispatcher told officers before giving the license plate number. "Domestic. He got into a white Ford Transit van. Has a black ladder on the back. Florida plate. The female who got hit, they both — the male and the female — both got into the van and headed north."

Police stopped the van a few minutes later. In the police report of the traffic stop, the responding officer initially wrote that he believed "it was reported the male had been observed to have assaulted the female," but later contradicted the earlier statement and wrote that "no one reported that the male struck the female."

In video footage of the traffic stop, Petito appears highly agitated and admits to striking Laundrie. She also says she has obsessive compulsive disorder and blames her condition, in part for sparking the dispute between them.

Gabby Petito
Gabby Petito. Uncredited/AP/Shutterstock

Police classified the incident as "disorderly conduct" rather than domestic violence, and determined Petito was the aggressor. But information that has come to light since then belies this assessment.

An eyewitness who called 911 to report the incident told the dispatcher Laundrie had been slapping Petito.

Another eyewitness, who provided a written statement, told police he saw the couple in the middle of "some sort of dispute" and that "something definitely didn't seem right."

That witness also said it appeared Laundrie was possibly trying to lock Petito out of the van and take her phone.

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gabby petito cover

Cornell University forensic psychiatrist Dr. Ziv Cohen reviewed the footage for PEOPLE in its latest issue. While he has never met or treated Petito or Laundrie, he was able to use his experience to observe the couple's body language and demeanor — and make a speculative assessment on their relationship.

Gabby Petito, Brian Laundrie
Gabby Petito, Brian Laundrie. Find Gabby/Facebook

"When you look at the discrepancy between the two of them, it does raise alarm bells about a potential domestic abuse situation," Cohen says.

"One of the things I think that's interesting is that they do try to separate Gabby from him and interview her," Cohen continues. "And when they do that, she proceeds to just blame herself for the incident, but appearing quite scared and not really being able to explain how the incident began. That seems to fit the profile of a domestic abuse situation, where you have the victim self-blaming and trying to protect the abuser."

Two weeks after the incident, Petito disappeared. Her body was found weeks later. Authorities have not released a cause of death, but named Laundrie as a person of interest.

Laundrie is now wanted by the FBI on an active arrest warrant issued last week on allegations of unauthorized use of a debit card, and has been the subject of a massive manhunt.

If you have information on this case, call 1-­800-­CALL-­FBI (225­-5324).

If you are experiencing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or go to thehotline.org. All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.

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