MOAB, Utah - Newly-released body camera video reveals more about the complicated and tumultuous relationship between Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie and a fight they had weeks before her death.
The footage comes from a second officer in Moab, Utah, who responded on August 12 after two witnesses reported seeing the couple get into a violent argument in a parking lot.
The 52-minute video includes a new witness account of the argument, Gabby’s version of the fight and a chilling conversation between officers as they discuss how domestic violence can escalate into murder.
Moab police separated Gabby and Brian almost immediately to get each one’s side of the story.
The officer tells Gabby that two witnesses reported seeing Brian hit her. When asked what happened, Gabby tells officers she hit Brian several times.
Officer: So, there’s two people that came to us and said that they saw him hit you. There’s two people that say they saw him punch you. Independent witnesses by Moon Flower.
Gabby: Well, to be honest I definitely hit him first.
Officer: Where’d you hit him?
Gabby: I slapped him in the face.
When pressed, Gabby seemed to admit that Brian hit her back, but quickly backtracked to take the blame and downplay his role in the fight.
Officer: How many times did you slap him?
Gabby: Just a couple.
Officer: And then his reaction was to do what?
Gabby: Grab my arm so I couldn’t slap him.
Officer: He just grabbed you? Did you hit him though? It’s OK. It’s understandable if you hit him and then he hit you, but we just want to know the truth if he actually hit you.
Gabby: I guess, yeah, but I hit him first.
Officer: Where did he hit you? Don’t worry.
Gabby: Well, he like grabbed my face like this. Um, he didn’t, like, hit me in the face. He didn’t, like, punch me in the face or anything.
Officer: Did he slap your face or what?
Gabby: Well, he like grabbed me with his nail and I guess that’s why it looks … like I definitely have a cut right here and I can feel it. When I touch it, it burns.
As officers discuss in the video, because she admits to hitting Brian, which is consistent with what he and the witness tell police and with the scratches they see on Brian’s face, they said she is the primary aggressor in the situation. Police say, given then circumstances, they would have to charge her with domestic assault.
Police had no way of knowing that Gabby would be killed weeks later, but in the new video, officers have what’s now a haunting conversation about domestic violence laws.
"The reason why they don’t give us discretion on things is because too many times women who are at risk end up going back to their abuser. They just wanted him to stop. They don’t want to be separated. They don’t want to press charges and they don’t want him to go to jail and then they just keep getting worse and worse treatment and then they end up getting killed," said the officer. "In no way shape or form can I perceive what happened here, a little slap fight between fiancés who love each other and want to be together, can I perceive that this is going to digress into a situation where he’s going to be a battered man, but then again I don’t have a crystal ball."
Moab police ultimately declined to charge Gabby with domestic assault and instead drove Brian to a hotel to separate them for the night.
Gabby was found dead nearly a month later.
Prior to the release of the second body camera footage this week, police in Utah also made the following available to the public: a police report, the initial body camera footage from a Utah police officer, the 911 recording from a witness, and a witness statement
In a separate witness statement, written by someone only identified as "Christopher," it stated:
"They were talking aggressively [at] each other [and] something definitely seemed off. At one point, they were sort of fighting over a phone – I think the male took the female’s phone. It appeared that he didn’t want her in the white van."
Christopher also said that at one point, he saw Gabby allegedly "punching him in the arm" and trying to get inside the vehicle.
However, in the 911 call that was later released, a witness reported the "domestic dispute" between Brian and Gabby on Aug. 12 before they were later pulled over by Moah police. The caller was heard telling a dispatcher that "the gentleman was slapping the girl."
The city of Moah in Utah recently announced they will investigate how the police handled that call. Experts said they may have acted appropriately based on incomplete information.
Brian Laundrie search
It's been two weeks since Brian's parents reported their son missing, and authorities have yet to locate him.
BI agents returned to the home of Brian Laundrie on Thursday, but did not stay long. There was no official word from the agency on why they were there.
"The FBI is at the Laundrie home today to collect some personal items belonging to Brian that will assist the canines in their search for Brian," Steven Bertolino told FOX 13 News. "There is nothing more to this."
Laundrie and Petito were on a cross-country van trip until he abruptly returned to Florida with their van, but without Petito. Her body was later found out west.
Laundrie’s parents reported him missing over two weeks ago, telling police that he headed to a preserve near their home without his wallet or phone. A weeklong manhunt at the swampy preserve failed to find him.
During their brief stop, the FBI agents appeared to take an interest in the family’s camper, which is parked in the driveway outside the home. The family took Brian camping at Fort De Soto after he returned from the van trip, but according to their attorney, Brian left the campsite with his family.
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