Gabby Petito Case: City of Moab to Investigate Police's Handling of Brian Laundrie Traffic Stop

Brian Laundrie, 23 is still on the run after his fiancee's remains, Gabby Petito, 22 were found in Wyoming on Sept. 19, 2021

The audio that was released by the Grand County Sheriff’s Office allegedly contradicted an initial police report in which Petito was branded as the aggressor due to scratch marks on Laundrie’s face, according to bodycam footage.

New dispatch radio recordings show that Utah police who pulled over Brian Laundrie and Gabby Petito were told by a dispatcher that "a male struck a female," but police initially focused on Petito as the primary aggressor during the traffic stop dispute, officials said.

The Moab Police Department has come under fire for its handling of the Aug. 12 domestic dispute between Laundrie and Petito and now an independent investigation will be conducted by an unaffiliated law enforcement agency, according to a statement sent to Inside Edition Digital by Lisa Church, Moab City Communications and Engagement Manager.

"The death of Gabrielle Petito in Wyoming is a heartbreaking tragedy, and all of us are deeply saddened to learn the outcome of the nationwide effort to locate her. Our sincere condolences go out to the Petito family," the statement read.

"With the weeks long search for Ms. Petito across the western U.S. 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. During the past week, our police officer 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 statement read. “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 steps that may be appropriate.”

Moab City Police Chief Bret Edge said in a statement obtained by Inside Edition Digital, “An outside party filed a request with the Moab City Police Department asking for a formal investigation into the Aug. 12 incident in Moab involving Gabrielle Petito and Brian Laundrie. We take all complaints seriously and we are committed to fully addressing these concerns."

He continued: “We look forward to the investigation. 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.”

On Aug. 12, Moab police had pulled Petito and Laundrie over outside of Arches National Park following the report of a domestic incident that took place at an organic grocery store called the Moonflower Community Cooperative.

A witness called 911 and told the dispatcher they had encountered a man and woman in Moab engaged in a “ domestic dispute.” 

”RP (reporting party) states seeing a male hit a female, domestic,” the dispatcher is heard saying on the day of the incident, according to police audio obtained by Fox 13 Utah

“He got into a white Ford Transit van, has a black ladder on the back, Florida plate,” the dispatcher added.

The witness proceeded to tell the dispatcher that “he saw a man hit a woman, domestically,” according to the records obtained by Fox13 Utah. 

“We drove by and the gentleman was slapping the girl," the caller said, who proceeded to tell the dispatcher that when he stopped he explained that “[Laundrie and Petito] ran up and down the sidewalk, he proceeded to hit her, hopped in the car and they drove off."

The audio that was released by the Grand County Sheriff’s Office allegedly contradicted an initial police report in which Petito was branded as the aggressor due to scratch marks on Laundrie’s face, according to bodycam footage, Inside Edition Digital previously reported.

The footage reveals a crying and shaken Petito. “We've been fighting all morning,” Gabby told the park ranger in tears, Inside Edition Digital previously reported

Neither Petito nor Laundrie were charged and officers suggested that the couple separate for the night to cool off before continuing on their cross-country trip. Officers gave Laundrie a ride to a local hotel. Petito slept in the van, Inside Edition previously reported.

On the day the couple was pulled over, Petito and Laundrie had been living in the van for about four months, crossing the U.S. and visiting national parks, a trip that Petito documented on her travel blog. They told police they were still in love, but after all that time together, tension was building until it erupted in tears and shoving, Inside Edition previously reported.

According to the Aug. 12 police report obtained by Inside Edition Digital, the case which was closed, was labeled disorderly conduct. Petito was named a suspect and Laundrie, the victim. 

Last week, an arrest warrant was issued for Laundrie. He allegedly spent at least $1,000 using an “unauthorized” Capital One debit card in the days following the death of Gabby Petito, “as per a federal indictment filed in the U.S. District Court of Wyoming,” according to published reports. 

The indictment that was issued on Wednesday stated that between the dates of Aug. 30 and Sept. 1, Laundrie used a debit card and a personal identification number that was linked to two Capital One bank accounts withdrawing up to $1,000. The indictment did not indicate whose debit card it was, Fox 13 News reported.

“While this warrant allows law enforcement to arrest Mr. Laundrie, the FBI and our partners across the country continue to investigate the facts and circumstances of Ms. Petito’s homicide,” FBI Denver Special Agent Michael Schneider said in a statement on Thursday.

“We urge individuals with knowledge of Mr. Laundrie’s role in this matter or his current whereabouts to contact the FBI. No piece of information is too small or inconsequential to support our efforts in this investigation,” he said.

Laundrie has not been named a suspect but is the sole person of interest in the investigation since Petito’s remains were found in a remote area of Wyoming's Bridger-Teton National Forest campsite on Sept. 19. Two days later, Laundrie’s fiancée's death was ruled a homicide by the Teton County Coroner and the FBIInside Edition Digital previously reported.

On July 1, the couple had set out on a cross-country adventure visiting national parks in the West using the hashtag #VanLife, before Petito disappeared, CNN reported. 

On Sept. 1, Laundrie returned back to his home in North Port, Florida, which he shared with Petito and his parents, with the white, repurposed Ford Transit van he and Petito had been traveling in.

On Sept. 11, Petito was reported missing by her family. The last time Petito’s mother, Nicole Schmidt, said she had spoken to her daughter was on Aug. 25.  

On Sept. 14, Laundrie’s parents, Chris, 62, and Robert, 55, reportedly told officials that their son had gone on a hike and that was the last time they had spoken to him. 

On Sunday, two FBI agents arrived at his parents’ North Port home to gather Laundrie’s personal belongings for DNA testing.

The public has gotten involved in the search with a few different law firms offering a $20,000 reward for Laundries' capture.

While that was happening a public memorial service was held for Petito in her hometown of Blue Point, Long Island, where at least 1,200 mourners pay their respects.

Gabby’s father, Joseph Petito announced that he has established The Gabby Petito Foundation. “No one should have to find their child on their own,” he wrote. “We are creating this foundation to give resources and guidance to bringing their children home. We are looking to help people in similar situations as Gabby," Inside Edition Digital previously reported.

Related Stories