The independent report examines the police situation in the tourist town of Moab on August 12. Officers investigate a fight between Pettito and her boyfriend, Brian Laundry, but eventually let the couple leave after asking them to spend a night in private.
Police body camera video of 22-year-old Pettito was seen visibly upset as the investigation opened and raised questions about whether a different police response could have prevented her death weeks later. Mr. Laundry, 23, later killed himself after being named the only person who cared about her death.
Captain Brandon Ratcliffe wrote: “Would Gabe be alive today if this issue were handled differently? This is an impossible question to answer despite being the answer that many people want to know. No one knows and no one will know the answer to this question.” , of the Bryce, Utah Police Department, who prepared the report.
Long before their names hit the headlines, police officers stopped the couple during a cross-country trip. Their truck was seen speeding and crashing into a curb near the entrance to Arches National Park. Laundry told police that the couple had a minor fight that started when he got into the truck with dirty feet.
Mrs. Pettito told a similar story, and erred in wanting to keep the converted wagon clean. She told the police they hit him first, and since Mr. Laundry was injured but refused to press charges, officers separated the couple and then let them leave.
Utah law states that police must cite an abuser in domestic violence assaults. In this case, no one was cited by the police, finding that the incident was a mental or emotional health break.
One of the officers who opposed citing Pettito said Mr. Laundry might rescue her from prison and thus have “more control over her”.
That officer told investigators that if he knew she was in danger, he would take his own time to go after them. “I would have done anything to stop him if I had known that was coming… I was devastated about it.”
The city of Moab said they would follow the report’s recommendations, though they also said the officers “showed kindness, respect and empathy in their handling of this incident.”
The report found that the officers did what they thought was right at the time, and that responsibility for Ms Pettito’s death rested solely with her killer.
However, the report recommends improving training, particularly in the area of domestic violence investigation, placing the relevant officers on probation or extending the period of existing probation.
2021 in review: the world’s biggest news
Mr. Ratcliffe wrote that while Pettit appears to have been the aggressor in the specific fight Moab police investigated, this was not necessarily the gist of their relationship.
Mr Ratcliffe wrote: “I have had several times in my career where someone we know from past experience has been arrested as a long-term victim of domestic violence for having committed an act of domestic violence against their long-term abusers.” “It is very likely that Gabe has been a long-term victim of domestic violence, whether it is physical, mental and/or emotional.”