New police body camera footage of the August 12 traffic stop of Brian Laundrie and Gabby Petito shows a sobbing Petito telling an officer her boyfriend hit her “but I hit him first.”
At least two witnesses called 911 that day, reporting that they’d seen what might be a domestic violence situation between Laundrie and Petito in Moab, Utah.
When police later located their van and pulled them over, Petito told officers she was anxious and Laundrie was frustrated with her.
“Did he hit you though?” the officer asks in the new footage. “We want to know the truth, if he actually hit you, because, you know –”
“I guess, yeah, but I hit him first,” Petito replies.
“Where did he hit you?” the officer asks. “Don’t worry, just be honest.”
“He, like, grabbed my face, I guess,” she says, grabbing her own jaw to demonstrate. “He didn’t, like, hit me in the face, he didn’t like, punch me in the face or anything.”
“Did he slap your face or what?” asked the officer.
“He grabbed me like with his nail, and I guess that’s why — I definitely have a cut right here, because I can feel it,” Petito says.
Petito tells the officer that they were both stressed, and that he locked her out of the van.
“He got really frustrated with me, and he locked me out of the car and told me to go take a breather, but I didn’t want to take a breather,” Petito says. “And I wanted to get going. We’re out of water.”
Petito says that both she and Laundrie are prone to anxiety, and the officer says that two people prone to anxiety can be very difficult, referencing his own ex-wife. “That’s why she’s my ex-wife,” he says, while Petito chuckles.
While another officer interviews Laundrie, the officer calls a witness to hear his story of what he saw again. The witness repeatedly says the situation “looked off,” and that he didn’t exactly see Laundrie hit Petito, but Laundrie did shove her. “It looked like they were squabbling over a phone,” he says. He tells the officer it appeared that Laundrie locked the passenger door and that Petito eventually crawled into the van on the driver’s side.
According to the conversation, the officer met this witness outside the Moonflower coop when he responded to the 911 call about Laundrie and Petito — and this witness did not call 911 himself because he saw someone else make that call. Although this witness said he did not see Laundrie hit Petito, the 911 caller apparently did.
“RP (reporting party) states seeing a male hit a female, domestic,” the dispatcher said, according to audio released earlier this month, as CrimeOnline reported. “He got into a white Ford Transit van, has a black ladder on the back, Florida plate.”
Later in the hour-long video, the officer explains to Petito, sitting in the back of his patrol vehicle, that no witness described seeing Laundrie hit her, only “shoving that sounds like it was consistent with trying to prevent you from entering the van.”
The officer identifies Petito as the “primary aggressor” and explains that if they determine that the incident does reach the level of domestic violence, the primary aggressor will go to jail. The unidentified officer further tells Petito that they’re contacting a victim’s advocate organization to get Laundrie a hotel room for the night, because “they won’t put you up in a hotel because you’re the primary aggressor.”
In a later phone call to a supervisor, this same officer describes the situation as “a domestic assault,” but says Laundrie is “very adamant” about not wanting to press charges. “It was a like a slap fight, and the injury was from a fingernail,” he said. “I just don’t know if it’s worth the whole domestic thing or not.”
Later still, two officers discuss the situation and the purpose of the law that requires them to arrest the aggressor in a domestic assault case. “In no way, shape or form that I can perceive, does what happened here — a little slap fight between fiances who love each other and want to be together — can I perceive that this is going to digress into the situation where he’s gonna be a battered man,” he tells the second officer. “But then again I don’t have a crystal ball.”
Ultimately, the officer decides not to call what happened an assault, because, according to Utah law, an assault is an intentional attempt to cause bodily injury. Petito says that she had no intention of hurting Laundrie. “I was trying to get him to stop telling me to calm down,” she says.
Two weeks later, Gabby Petito stopped communicating with her family. Brian Laundrie returned home on September 1, and neither he nor his parents told Petito’s family that he’d come back to Florida without her. On September 11, Petito’s family reported her missing. Her body was found in a remote Wyoming campsite on September 19, and an autopsy determined she was murdered. But by then, Brian Laundrie had fled his parents home.
He’s not been found.
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[Featured image: Moab Police Department via The Times-Enterprise]