The family of Gabby Petito plans to file a $50 million wrongful death lawsuit against police in Moab, Utah, claiming officers did not adequately investigate her case as a domestic violence incident prior to her death last year.
As NBC News reports, the lawsuit was announced Monday, Aug. 8 with lawyers for Petito’s family filing a notice of intent, which is required before suing government entities. The notice lists the Moab City Police Department, its then-Chief Bret Edge, ex-Assistant Chief Braydon Palmer, and officers Eric Pratt and Daniel Robbins as defendants.
The Moab City Police did not immediately return Rolling Stone’s request for comment. An official for the City of Moab said it “does not comment on pending litigation.” Lawyers for Petito’s family did not immediately return a request for comment.
The lawsuit reportedly centers around an Aug. 12, 2021 encounter between Moab police, Petito, and her fiancé Brian Laundrie. Bodycam footage showed Petito sobbing in the back of a squad car and telling police she’d slapped Laundrie in an argument because he wouldn’t let her back inside the van they were using on a road trip through several National Parks. Petito and Laundrie ultimately decided not to press charges against each other, and cops separated them for the night.
Weeks after Petito’s remains were found near a Wyoming campground on Sept. 19, an extended version of the bodycam video was released. In it, one officer asked Petito about bruises on her arms and face, and asked if Laundrie had hit her. She said Laundrie had hurt her when he grabbed her face, but blamed herself for instigating the altercation by saying she hit him first. Laundrie later confessed to killing Petito in writing before dying of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The video led to increased discussion about the warning signs of domestic violence, and an official Moab Police Department review of the case, completed back in January, backed up claims that officers had not sufficiently investigated the situation between Petito and Laundrie. The review found that the cops had misclassified the incident, with one officer writing in a report that it was “more accurately categorized as a mental/emotional health ‘break’ than a domestic assault.”
Lawyers for Petito’s family are now arguing that had the police been properly trained, they would’ve known “Gabby was a victim of intimate partner violence” and required “immediate protection.” At a press conference in Salt Lake City, Utah Monday, Aug. 8, a lawyer for Petito’s family, James McConkie, added, “Gabby’s parents are bringing this lawsuit to honor Gabby’s legacy by working to save the lives of victims of domestic violence throughout the United States and the world… They hope their efforts to help will save lives and give meaning to the senseless, avoidable and tragic murder of their daughter.”