Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt, the parents of the late Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Moab City Police Department (MCPD) on Thursday alleging its officers were negligent and “failed to adequately -investigate” threats of domestic violence against the 22-year-old before he was killed.
“Officers grossly misinterpreted Gabby’s extreme emotional distress, seeing it as the cause of the domestic violence rather than the result of it,” wrote attorneys for Petito and Schmidt, from the law firm of Parker & McConkie.
The $50 million lawsuit describes an incident prior to Gabby Petito’s death in which police investigated a violent interaction between the social media influencer and her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie.
That investigation was “deeply flawed,” according to the family’s attorneys, and placed Petito instead of Laundrie as the dominant aggressor after both parties physically assaulted each other.
“They did not recognize or otherwise identify the obvious signs that clearly indicated that Gabby was a victim of domestic abuse, including her taking responsibility for the fight with Brian even though she described Brian as who grabbed his face violently scratching his cheek and drawing blood,” the suit says of the Moab City police officers.
The lawsuit names MCPD Chief of Police Bret Edge, Assistant Chief of Police Braydon Palmer, Officer Eric Pratt, Officer Daniel Robbins and 10 unnamed department employees as defendants in the case.
“Gabby would still be alive if the Moab Police Department had not hired, retained and/or failed to train officers who were fundamentally unfit and safe to work in a police officer capacity,” it said.
Petito’s parents address Pratt’s record in the lawsuit, including allegations of sexual harassment and intimate partner violence against the officer.
Pratt allegedly abused his position as police chief to manipulate and sexually harass a woman before threatening to kill her if she disclosed his misconduct.
He was also accused of having sex with witnesses and in police cars.
“The Moab City Police Department knew or should have known that Officer Pratt, who has a history of widespread professional and sexual misconduct, including sexual harassment and intimate partner violence, was unfit and unsafe to be a police officer,” Petito family attorney Brian C Stewart said at a press conference Thursday.
In a statement to The Hill, Schmidt said: “If the officer responding to Gabby’s situation was an abuser himself who threatened the life of a girlfriend, it makes sense why he believed Gabby’s abuser and ignored the its injuries. With him in charge, I don’t think Gabby had a chance.”
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