- Moab, Utah, is probing how police handled an incident between Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie.
- The August 12 domestic incident occured while the two were on a cross-country road trip.
- Petito has since been found dead in Wyoming and Laundrie is still missing, last seen in Florida.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The city of Moab, Utah, is launching an investigation into the Moab City Police Department’s handling of the domestic incident between Gabby Petito and her fiancé Brian Laundrie in the Beehive State in August – fewer than three weeks before authorities believe she was killed.
In a statement to Insider on Friday, the city explained that during the past week the police department’s officers “have been both praised and criticized for their response and their resolution of the incident involving Ms. Petito and Mr. Laundrie.”
“The Moab City Police Department has clear standards for officer conduct during a possible domestic dispute and our officers are trained to follow those standards and protocol,” the city said.
It added: “At this time, the City of Moab is unaware of any breach of Police Department policy during this incident. However, the City will conduct a formal investigation and, based on the results, will take any next steps that may be appropriate.”
The investigation is in connection to an August 12 incident between Petito and Laundrie while the two were on their “van life” cross-country road trip to national parks out West.
Officers with the Moab Police Department responded to the report of a domestic dispute involving the couple, pulling them over near Arches National Park.
A visibly distraught Petito, 22, and an apparently calm Laundrie, 23, told police they had gotten into an argument in Moab that resulted in Petito slapping Laundrie, according to a police report and officer body-camera footage the department released.
A witness also told police that he saw the pair arguing over a phone and said that when Laundrie got into the van he and Petito were traveling in, “he saw what appeared to him as Gabrielle hitting Brian in the arm and then climbing through the driver’s window as if Brian had locked her out and she was trying to find a way in.”
But in a 911 call about the same incident, a witness can be heard telling dispatchers with the Grand County Sheriff’s Office that he saw a man “slapping the girl.”
“He proceeded to hit her, hopped in the car, and they drove off,” the 911 caller said, according to the audio.
The city of Moab referenced the 911 call in its statement about the investigation.
“With the weeks-long search for Ms. Petito across the western US, news that a call to Grand County Dispatch on Aug. 12 reported a possible domestic dispute between Ms. Petito and Brian Laundrie here in Moab has naturally led to questions from the media and the public about the call,” the city said.
In police body-camera footage showing the aftermath of the scuffle, officers can be seen considering whether to charge Petito with domestic violence. But they opted not to when she told them she didn’t intend to hurt Laundrie, who police said in their report had minor scratches on his face and right arm.
Instead, police recommended the two spend the night apart.
“We understand that individuals can view the same situation in very different ways, and we recognize how the death of Ms. Petito more than two weeks later in Wyoming might lead to speculation, in hindsight, about actions taken during the incident in Moab,” the city of Moab said.
“The purpose of the City’s formal investigation is to gather the underlying facts and evidence necessary to make a thorough, informed evaluation of such actions,” it said.
Moab City Police Chief Bret Edge said in a statement that an “outside party” filed a request with the department asking for a formal investigation into the August 12 incident.
“We take all complaints seriously and we are committed to fully addressing these concerns,” Edge said. “In compliance with police department policy, we will conduct an investigation. The police department will identify an unaffiliated law enforcement agency to conduct the formal investigation on our behalf.”
The chief continued: “Should the investigation identify areas for improvement we will take that information to heart, learn from it, and make changes if needed to ensure we are providing the best response and service to our community.”
Laundrie, who now remains missing, has been named a person of interest in connection to her disappearance and death.
A federal court in Wyoming issued an arrest warrant for Laundrie this week in connection to the case, the FBI announced Thursday.