'Cold' and 'Calculating': Forensic Psychiatrist Breaks Down Brian Laundrie's Demeanor in Police Video

Brian Laundrie is considered a person of interest in Gabby Petito's homicide

A forensic psychologist reviewing the Aug. 12 body camera footage of Gabby Petito and fiancé Brian Laundrie says the behavior of the couple "raise[s] alarm bells about a potential domestic abuse situation."

The video of Petito and Laundrie was captured by one of the Moab, Utah, police officers responding to a reported domestic dispute between the couple in Arches National Park.

In an interview with PEOPLE, Cornell University forensic psychiatrist Dr. Ziv Cohen acknowledged he has never met Petito or Laundrie and that he is speculating based on the video. But looking at the couple's body language and interactions with officers, he says Laundrie appears to be "cold" and "calculating."

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"He appears to be trying to figure out what the officers are thinking and what they want. He seems very good at presenting himself as harmless, standing there with his shoulders slouched, and his hands held in front of him," Cohen says. "But he also has a levity to him, which seems inappropriate, and even jokes around with the police at one point, talking about Gabby as being blonde haired and blue eyed, and joking with the police at another time, joking with the police about whether Gabby is crazy."

In the footage, the officer approaches the van in which the couple were traveling cross-country. At that point, he immediately separates Petito and Laundrie before interviewing them about the altercation.

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

"We've just been fighting this morning, some personal issues," says Petito, who is crying and appears agitated as she speaks with the officer. She then tells police that she had become frustrated with Laundrie earlier in the day about the condition of the van, saying repeatedly that she has obsessive compulsive disorder.

Referencing Laundrie's calm demeanor in contrast to Petito's, Cohen says, "I think that when you look at the discrepancy between the two of them, it does raise alarm bells about a potential domestic abuse situation."

He adds, "Also makes you think of fitting the profile of a domestic abuse situation, where you have the victim self-blaming and trying to protect the abuser."

gabby petito cover

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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," WABC reports.

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

"Those are the things that make you think of a domestic abuse situation and what we call coercive control," says Cohen.

The body cam footage ends with the couple being asked to spend the night apart, with Petito keeping the van and Laundrie sent to a hotel. Cohen says the officers "were really trying to be sensitive and work with the situation and they were trying to put together the best outcome as they saw it."

But he says the resolution of the dispute was "distressing."

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"It seems that you have someone here who's very fragile and most likely in need of some kind of protection and assistance, not receiving it," he says of Petito. "[Laundrie is] sent to a hotel room for his protection when he's actually the one who drives the car, who tried to lock her out of the car, who was observed by at least one witness has hitting her, who's calm and composed during the entire police interaction. Whereas she's the one who's saying that she has mental health issues."

He adds, "I find it distressing because I think it was not meeting the needs of the situation."

Gabby Petito
Gabby Petito, Brian Laundrie. Gabby Petito Instagram

Petito was reported missing on Sept. 11 — 10 days after Laundrie returned to his parents' home in the white van he and Gabby had used to travel across the country. Relatives last had contact with Petito on Aug. 25, when she was near Grand Teton National Park in Jackson, Wyoming.

On Sunday, the FBI announced that human remains had been found in the park that were "consistent with the description" of Petito. Law enforcement officials confirmed on Tuesday that the remains belonged to Petito and that she had died by homicide.

Once Petito was reported missing, Laundrie was identified as a person of interest in the case and refused to sit down with investigators to discuss his fiancée's whereabouts. He has also since gone missing, with authorities in Florida currently conducting searches for him.

He has not been named a suspect at this time.

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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