One of the Moab, Utah, police officers who was shown at the stop of Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie in the notorious body-cam footage taken days before Petito’s disappearance has said he feels “desperately fucked over” about her killing.
Officer Eric Pratt was one of the tourist town’s cops who questioned the couple on Aug. 12 after a potential domestic-violence incident between them was reported by a concerned onlooker. The officers let them go on the condition that they agreed to spend the night apart, and arranged for a hotel room. Petito was last seen on Aug. 24, and her body was found in a remote woodland in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park on Sept. 19.
On Wednesday, an independent investigative report determined that the officers failed in their duties by not pressing any charges. The report said the officers should have arrested Petito after she admitted to striking Laundrie first during a fight, and it recommended that the cops should be placed on probation for their “several unintentional mistakes.”
The report included an interview with Officer Pratt, who clearly remains traumatized after his failure to prevent Petito’s death. “I’m desperately fucked over that she got killed. I really am,” said the officer. “I would have done anything to stop it if I would have known that was coming.”
Officer Pratt went on: “If I would have known [Laundrie] was going to murder her, I would have taken vacation to follow them, because I care about people, to the point where he was going to murder her… and I would have intervened and citizens arrested him in Wyoming! I would have taken my own time. I would have missed my family to go do that.”
The report found Pratt and fellow Officer Daniel Robbins “both believed at the time they were making the right decision based on the totality of the circumstances that were presented.” It refused to blame the officers for Petito’s death, noting that it happened weeks after and several hundred miles away from their Aug. 12 encounter in Moab, outside the entrance to Arches National Park.
However, it notes that, if the case had been handled perfectly, it would have likely ended in Petito’s arrest. “Based on the information provided, in this specific incident, Brian would be the victim with Gabby being the suspect,” the report states, noting that Petito admitted to hitting Laundrie.
“I do not find that they enforced the law,” wrote Capt. Brandon Ratcliffe of the Price City Police Department in Utah. “They responded to a confirmed domestic-violence incident and they had evidence showing an assault had taken place. The statements of all those involved, along with the evidence presented, provided probable cause for an arrest.”
In October, a coroner determined that Petito died by strangulation. Laundrie disappeared just days after Petito was reported missing, and was found dead from suicide in a Florida nature reserve on Oct. 20.
Ratcliffe wrote that it was “an impossible question to answer” whether Petito would be alive if the officers responded differently, saying the blame for her death lies with “the person or persons directly responsible… There were mistakes made in how this case was handled. If this case was handled flawlessly, would it have changed anything? Nobody knows.”
In a statement, the city of Moab said it “intends to implement the report’s recommendations” and said the report proved “our officers showed kindness, respect, and empathy in their handling of this incident.”