Gabby Petito’s Parents File Lawsuit Against Moab Police

Teton National Forest

Gabby Petito’s parents are suing the Moab Police Department for $50 million, claiming that two officers failed to handle a 911 call properly.

On Aug. 12, 2021, Moab responded to a domestic violence 911 call.

Two weeks later, Brian Laundrie is believed to have bludgeoned Petito and strangled her to death at a Bridger-Teton National Forest campground.

A photo taken during the incident shows that Brian attacked Petito and that she was potentially choked.

The complaint text focuses mainly on Pratt’s actions during the stop. He had seniority over Robbins, a relatively new officer, and on the bodycam video, he appeared reluctant to charge Petito with a crime. He had determined she was the aggressor, not Laundrie.

Officer Pratt called Assistant Chief Palmer to seek assistance handling the situation,” the filing reads. “Chief Palmer instructed Officer Pratt to carefully read the assault statute and decide whether the situation satisfied the statute. Officer Pratt Googled the statute. After reading only the first half of the statute, Officer Pratt incorrectly decided that Utah law only recognizes assault if the perpetrator intended to cause bodily injury.”

The Moab Police Department drew scrutiny after a pair of bodycam videos showed its response to a Petito-Laundrie dispute.

Petito’s parents and stepparents have retained the Parker and McConkie law firm to handle the case. The firm represented the family of Lauren McCluskey in a 2020 lawsuit that resulted in a $13.5 million settlement with the university.

Attorneys for the Petito and Schmidt families announced a notice of claim against Moab police on Monday, Aug. 8.

The new filing also reveals that Petito called her parents during the stop, and they wanted her to fly home and get away from Laundrie. They even offered to pay for a ride to Salt Lake City and a flight home, but hearing that police were involved, they “accepted Gabby’s assurances that she would continue her trip,” the document reads.

“I don’t know that they did everything wrong,” “Everybody assumes it was a judgment call. People don’t deserve to get arrested because they got in a fight with someone that they love.”

Following their daughter’s death, Petito’s parents and stepparents created a nonprofit in her honor to raise awareness surrounding domestic violence and missing persons. The Petito and Schmidt families are also suing Laundrie’s parents in two separate Florida cases.

“I think Gabby’s story has touched a lot of people, and she’s saving lives,” Petito’s mother, Nichole Schmidt, said in a statement. “I get people messaging me all the time that she inspired them to get out of a relationship.”

The family urged people to reach out to anyone for help if they were trapped in an abusive relationship.

For more on this story, please consider these sources:

  1. Gabby Petito’s family files $50 million wrongful death lawsuit against Utah police  NBC News
  2. Gabby Petito’s parents announce wrongful death lawsuit against Moab police over Brian Laundrie’s 911 call  Fox News
  3. Utah cops blamed for Gabby Petito death, failed to protect her: Wrongful death lawsuit  LiveNOW from FOX
  4. Gabby Petito family to file $50M Utah lawsuit, saying Moab police should have done more  KSL.com
  5. Full press conference: Gabby Petito’s family announces $50M wrongful death lawsuit against Moab, Uta  FOX 13 Tampa Bay
John Nightbridge is a veteran reporter, researcher, and economic policy major from UCLA. Passionate about world issues and potential ways to solve them is a significant focus of his work. Writing freelance and reading the news are John's passions at work. Outside of work, it's all about sky diving, surfing, and stock market modeling.