Independent Review Faults Moab Police for 'Unintentional Mistakes' in Gabby Petito Case

"The City of Moab sends our sincere condolences to the Petito family. Our hearts go out to them as they continue to deal with the tragic loss of their daughter," officials said

Gabby Petito case: Full bodycam video from second Utah officer
Another image from a Moab City Police body cam, showing Gabby Petito on Aug. 12, 2021. Photo: Moab City Police Department

The city of Moab, Utah, has released the findings of an independent investigation into the Aug. 12 domestic dispute between Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie, suggesting that the two responding officers made mistakes and should be placed on probation.

On Wednesday, the city issued the 100-page report conducted by Capt. Brandon Ratcliffe of the Price City Police Department after a formal complaint was filed with the Moab City Police Department on how Moab Police Officers Eric Pratt and Daniel Robbins handled the situation.

Officers Pratt and Robbins did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

"The independent agency's investigative report finds that the officers who responded to the incident made several unintentional mistakes that stemmed from the fact that officers failed to cite Ms. Petito for domestic violence," a statement said.

Per recommendations of the report, the city said it will step up its training for the Moab City Police Department on domestic violence investigations and its review process for incident reports, among other areas.

Gabby Petito
Gabby Petito. Uncredited/AP/Shutterstock

"The City of Moab sends our sincere condolences to the Petito family. Our hearts go out to them as they continue to deal with the tragic loss of their daughter," the statement said.

To study the situation, Ratcliffe reviewed body camera footage to return Pratt and Robbins' conversations with Petito, 22, and Laundrie, 23, on Aug. 12. That morning, someone called police after the couple appeared to argue outside a food cooperative called Moonflower, and authorities pulled them over a short time later.

Per the report, Robbins approached the vehicle, immediately separating Petito and Laundrie before interviewing them about the alleged altercation.

"We've just been fighting this morning, some personal issues," Petito explained through tears. She then told police that she had become frustrated with Laundrie earlier in the day.

During his interview, Laundrie said that once Petito became frustrated, he locked the doors to the van and suggested they go on a walk to cool off. When the officer asked Laundrie about scratches on his face and neck, he replied: "She had her phone and was trying to get the keys from me. I said, 'Let's just step back and breathe,' and she got me with her phone."

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

The couple agreed to separate for the night, and Petito kept the van while Laundrie headed to a hotel.

Later, in paperwork, police would categorize the incident as one of "disorderly conduct" – which Ratcliffe cited as a erroneous. The police captain said the incident should have been recorded as domestic violence against Petito, as she admitted to hitting her fiancé after he grabbed her face. (Though Petito's face was scratched, there was not sufficient evidence at this point to also potentially charge Laundrie.)

Because of the blunder, a domestic violence report was not sent to prosecutors, which is required by state law, according to NBC News, and the potential for a larger intervention slipped through the cracks. Ratcliffe also wrote that both officers' reports were missing "significant details" and that while they had "probable cause for an arrest" given the evidence of assault, they failed by not pressing charges.

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"There are many "what-if's" that have presented itself as part of this investigation, the primary one being: Would Gabby be alive today if this case was handled differently? That is an impossible question to answer despite it being the answer many people want to know," Ratcliffe wrote. "Nobody knows and nobody will ever know the answer to that question."

Ratcliffe recommended that Pratt and Robbins be placed on probation and receive more technical training on report writing, domestic violence investigations, law, policy and more – but clarified that he believes they did the best they could in the fast-moving situation.

Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie
Brian Laundrie, Gabby Petito. North Port Police Department/Facebook

"After reviewing all the information and speaking with the officers, I am confident and comfortable in stating the mistakes that were made were not made intentionally. The officers did not know what they were doing was wrong at the time and did not make the decision to benefit themselves in any way," he wrote. "They both believed at the time they were making the right decision based on the totality of the circumstances that were presented."

"The Moab Police Department and specifically, Officer Pratt and Officer Robbins, are responsible for their actions or lack thereof as it pertains to this investigation," he continued. "However, I find it difficult to assign responsibility to anyone other than the person or persons directly responsible for Gabby's death, weeks after and several hundred miles away from their August 12th incident in Moab."

Petito and Laundrie were on a cross-country trip when she vanished in August, and was reported missing on Sept. 11 — 10 days after Laundrie quietly returned to his parents' Florida home without her — prompting a search through the Wyoming wilderness where authorities believe she was last seen.

Laundrie was named a person of interest in her disappearance on Sept. 15, and Petito's body was later found in Grand Teton National Park on Sept. 19. She was strangled.

Around the same time, Laundrie's family said he went missing, and his remains were located Oct. 20 in Florida's Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park.

Laundrie was never charged with Petito's death or disappearance, and a suspect for those crimes has not yet been named.

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

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