Gabby Petito’s family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Moab Police Department, on top of their ongoing legal fight with Brian Laundrie’s family. It all stems from Petito’s murder at the hands of Laundrie, a crime he admitted to in a suicide message discovered during a manhunt at a Florida nature preserve he had frequented in the past.
The lawsuits represent the difficult closing chapters of the heartbreaking saga of Petito’s disappearance and Laundrie’s short escape from justice. But according to a new report in The Sun, Moab police may end up looking worse than they did in a video captured during the traffic stop with Petito and Laundrie.
New witness to Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie fight says she was hit with ‘closed fist’ https://t.co/3215kg7IrT pic.twitter.com/FBfpjGUhRF
— New York Post (@nypost) August 27, 2022
According to The Sun, a witness going by the name “Chandler” and claiming they witnessed Laundrie striking Petito with a closed fist. “I was just driving by in my truck. I saw them at the back of their vehicle. They were kind of yelling and then Brian swung at her, I believe it was his left hand,” Chandler tells the outlet. “It was kind of like a slapping motion, but with a closed fist.”
Chandler adds that seeing the incident did shock him and he continued watching as he approached a stoplight. “I was coming up to a stoplight going like 15 miles per hour and looked right, they were parked in front of Moon Flower [a local market]. They were like on the passenger rear, by the passenger rear tire,” he continues. “She fell a little bit into the side of the van. She definitely felt it. When she hit into the van, she pretty much hit her back and probably the back of her head. They started yelling back [and forth] for a second and then Brian turned around and she chased after him.”
The initial 911 call seems to line up with this witness statement, as the initial 911 call noted Laundrie was seen slapping Petito, while interactions with police noted both were being physical. Still, revelations of an independent review of Moab Police’s conduct show that Officer Eric Pratt never followed up on a statement from the 911 caller, but did speak to other witnesses. Still, the officers noted in their report that no hit by Laundrie was witnessed and Petito was the aggressor. These details would be found to be false and both officers involved in the stop made “unintentional mistakes.”
Exactly 1 year ago today you were taken from us. We miss you everyday. We cry everyday. You have inspired so many to live, travel, and leave their unhealthy relationships. We love you Gabby. #GabbyPetito #DomesticViolence #MissingPerson #TogetherWeCan #thelightremains pic.twitter.com/OOTXO274U5
— joseph petito (@josephpetito) August 27, 2022
The biggest mistake may be that the officers allowed the couple to head back out on the road together. Attorney for Petito’s family Brian C. Stewart shared his view on the lawsuit and the police actions of that day. “The situation definitely could have been handled a lot differently, from their standpoint. We live in a society where we’re told nowadays if you’re violent, somebody’s going to jail. They probably should have done more legally [than] just separate them from the night,” Stewart tells The Sun. “From what I witnessed, it was definitely him being the aggressor. I don’t think she should have been the one that was put as the aggressor.Two or three people I know for sure saw it. And then there were a couple of people that swarmed around right after that probably saw something of it.”
Not long after this incident and the police stop, Gabby Petito was dead in Wyoming. Her body wouldn’t be discovered for three weeks after being strangled by Laundrie. He would later take his own life with a gun amid a manhunt costing millions of dollars. Laundrie’s suicide note indicated he “ended her life” after she injured herself, to be “merciful.” Petito’s family will take their lawsuit to court in October or November, according to The Sun.