Gabby Petito case: Moab cops Eric Pratt, Daniel Robbins were told male struck female
MOAB CITY, UTAH: In the already complicated case of Gabby Petito, a new issue has cropped up about the "domestic dispute" that preceeded Petito's disappearance. Responding officers pulled over the 22-year-old woman and her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, in Moab City, Utah on August 12, after getting a 911 call about the incident. New dispatch audio has revealed that the Utah police already knew that Brian had hit Gabby before the pair was stopped, seemingly contradicting earlier reports that claimed that the cops had no idea of the witness report on the 911 call — a witness who apparently saw Brian slapping Gabby.
The release of the new audio has now put the responding officers, Eric Pratt and Daniel Robbins, under scrutiny because they may have violated protocol when they did not arrest Brian Laundrie. Pratt and Robbins were the two cops who stopped the couple's white Ford transit van. “RP (reporting party) states seeing a male hit a female, domestic. He got into a white Ford Transit van, has a black ladder on the back, Florida plate,” the dispatcher told police at around 4.38 pm local time, as per the audio, first obtained by the investigative unit at FOX 13 Utah.
The dispatch audio also showed that when a cop asked for the witness’ phone number and the victim's location, the dispatcher again insisted on the fact that the 23-year-old boyfriend of Gabby had struck her. Responding at 4.42 pm, the dispatcher said, “Phone number is [redacted], name’s [redacted]. I’m not sure [inaudible], but the female who got hit, they both, the male and the female, both got into the van and headed north.”
In the audio of the 911 call obtained by DailyMail.com, the male witness can be heard saying to a Grant County sheriff, “I'm right in the corner of Main Street by Moonflower and we are driving and I'd like to report a domestic dispute. Florida with a white van - Florida license plate, white van," who then continued, “They just drove off. They're going towards Main Street. They made a right onto Main Street from Moonflower. We drove by him, a gentleman was slapping the girl.” When the sheriff asked, “He was slapping her?” The witness added: “Yes. And then we stopped. They ran down and up the sidewalk. He proceeded to hit her, hopped in the car and they drove off.”
The release of the new audio comes as the Moab Police Department on Thursday, September 23, announced an independent investigation into the handling of the situation on August 12 by the cops. At the time, police had said a witness saw Gabby hitting Brian during a fight about 15 days before she disappeared. An officer had also noted, “I do not believe the situation escalated to the level of a domestic assault as much as that of a mental health crisis.” But bodycam footage of the August 12 incident showed cops handling Petito as the primary aggressor in the fight after they questioned the duo.
And, officer Robbins wrote: “Gabrielle told me that she suffers from [redacted] with [redacted]. Because of her [redacted] and [redacted], combined with little arguments she and Brian had been having that day, she was struggling with her mental health, which led to the incident that was reported to law enforcement.” He added that at "no point in my investigation did Gabrielle stop crying, breathing heavily, or compose a sentence without needing to wipe away tears, wipe her nose, or rub her knees with her hands."
Under Utah law, cops need to make an arrest or issue a citation when they have “probable cause to believe that an act of domestic violence has been committed.” But on August 12, neither Gabby nor Brian was taken into custody, instead, they were separated for the night before being allowed to continue their trip. Now, Utah attorney Brett Tolman, a former U.S. Attorney for the District of Utah, has said that the responding cops may face disciplinary action because of how they handled the August incident.
told Fox News on Sunday, September 26, “I think they will find that they sort of manipulated the situation to not take someone into custody. I think the fact that they had another eyewitness that is not involved in it, and is objective, and said ‘he hit her’ … you're going to have a majority of officers take him into custody.” The attorney added: "I think the hardest part about the whole thing is, even if they had arrested the wrong one, there's a good chance she might be alive. And, you know, there's a reason why domestic violence laws have changed and why there's a no tolerance reaction to them."