According to a second body camera video released by Moab police, Gabby Petito told officers Brian Laundrie hit her — but only after she hit him.
Police stopped the pair on Aug. 12 after a 911 caller reported the two were seen fighting. Asked if Laundrie hit her, Petito replied, “I guess. Yeah. But I hit him first.”
The officer asked Petito if she’d been hit in the face or on the arm. “Where did he hit you?” the officer asked. “Don’t worry, just be honest.”
“He didn’t, like, hit me in the face,” she said. “He didn’t, like, punch me in the face or anything.”
“Did he slap your face, or what?” the officer asked.
Petito said Laundrie “grabbed me with his nail, and I guess that’s why it looks — I definitely have a cut right here,” she said, indicating her cheek. “I can feel it. When I touch it, it burns.”
Petito and Laundrie had been on a monthslong, cross-country road trip when police stopped them in Moab. Petito was reported missing on Sept. 11, and her body was found on Sept. 19 near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Her death has been ruled a homicide.
Laundrie, who returned to Florida without Petito on Sept. 1, has been named a “person of interest” in her disappearance. He disappeared after telling his parents he was going to a nature preserve. Federal investigators have issued an arrest warrant for Laundrie, who has been charged with unauthorized use of a debit card.
In the newly released video footage, Laundrie tells police, “I pushed her away. She gets really worked up, and when she does she swings, and she had her cell phone in her hand. So I was just trying to push her away.”
Petito is seen in the video telling telling police that Laundrie “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. And I wanted to get going. We’re out of water.”
An officer asked Petito if either she or Laundrie had been drinking, and if that was why Laundrie hit a curb while driving.
“No, we don’t drink,” she replied, adding, “I was yelling at him … and I kind of punched his arm.” And, she said, she “didn’t touch the steering wheel at all.” She tells officers she was “attempting to get him to stop the car and calm down.”
“It doesn’t sound to me like she was attempting to injure him,” one officer says to the other. “It’s your call.”
The two Moab officers and a Grand County Sheriff’s deputy discuss whether Petito should be charged with assault, and eventually decide she should not. “He doesn’t want to pursue it. She’s not a threat to him,” one of the officers says.
About a half hour into the video, one of the officers says he wants to speak “frankly” with Petito. “I have a daughter almost your age, and I’m looking at you not so much like a suspect, but also as kind of a victim in the sense that you’re dealing with some struggles emotionally, immensely at your age. Probably, they’ll work themselves out as you get older. There’s a lot of angst at your age. ... And hopefully it works itself out in the future.”
The officer tells her that she and Laundrie “both contributed to this … as a result of your inability to cope with the anxiety and the stress that you’re having. So in a way, you’re kind of a victim of this. I think you would’ve done better if you had the skills to do better. But you don’t learn skills ‘til you learn skills. You don’t have enough life experience yet to know how to navigate everything.”
On Sept. 23, the city of Moab announced that an outside agency would investigate its police department’s handling of Petito and Laundrie’s case. The couple were stopped by Moab police officers on Aug. 12 after a witness reported a “domestic problem” between the two.
On Monday, Moab Police Chief Bret Edge went on a leave of absence, which he requested under the Family and Medical Leave Act. A Moab spokeswoman refused to release any further information about Edge’s leave and did not comment on whether it was related to the Petito case.
On Sept. 20, the Grand County Sheriff’s Office released a recording of a 911 call from a witness who said there had had been a fight between a man and a woman — later identified as Laundrie and Petito — and that the man was slapping the woman. The sheriff’s office released a statement on Thursday that “it has been determined that the Grand County Dispatcher who handled the call gathered the appropriate information and promptly dispatched it to law enforcement.”
As of Friday afternoon, police continue to search for Laundrie.