TAMPA. Fla. (WFLA) — The family of Gabby Petito officially filed their wrongful death lawsuit in Utah state court Thursday against the Moab City Police Department for its “failures and negligence which led to Gabby’s death.” The family is seeking $50 million in damages.
During a press conference Thursday afternoon, attorneys for the Petito family alleged Gabby would have still been alive had officers properly handled a domestic violence situation that unfolded prior to a traffic stop on Aug. 12 in Moab, Utah.
Body camera video previously released showed the couple speaking with Utah police officers Eric Pratt and Scott Robbins during the traffic stop. The incident took place about one month before Petito’s body was found in the Grand Teton National Park.
Documents indicated she was strangled roughly two weeks after the traffic stop.
The lawsuit alleges the Moab City Police Department and its officers “failed Gabby” by not adhering to state laws and best practices.
During the press conference, Attorney Brian Stewart claimed Officer Pratt was “fundamentally biased” in his approach to the investigation based on “witnesses and other evidence” that had come to light, demonstrating Pratt was a “domestic abuser.”
Stewart also alleged Pratt used a loophole to avoid enforcing the law during the domestic violence situation.
“Nevertheless, Pratt intentionally chose not to follow the statute, stating ‘I don’t care if we use the actual letter of the law,'” Steward said.
Attorney James McConkie said the lawsuit was filed in part “to honor Gabby’s legacy by demanding accountability and working toward systemic changes to protect victims of domestic abuse and violence and prevent such tragedies in the future.”
Attorneys added the Petito family did not take the decision to file the lawsuit lightly, highlighting the family’s gratitude for the many officers who took the oath to protect and serve.
“However, when it became clear that the officers involved did not fully investigate the threat that Gabby faced, and did not follow the law, they knew they owed it to Gabby to demand accountability and change,” attorneys said.
“She was a light,” Gabby’s mother, Nichole Schmidt said. “She’s inspiring so many people. We’re just proud of her.”
She added, “We’d have her back in a heartbeat, but we feel we need to bring justice because she could have been protected that day.”
Following the announcement, the City of Moab, Utah released a statement saying in part, “no one could have predicted the tragedy that would occur weeks later and hundreds of miles away, and the City of Moab will ardently defend against this lawsuit.”
The full statement from the City of Moab, Utah can be found below:
“The death of Gabrielle Petito in Wyoming is a terrible tragedy, and we feel profound
sympathy for the Petito and Schmidt families and the painful loss they have endured. At
the same time, it is clear that Moab City Police Department officers are not responsible
for Gabrielle Petito’s eventual murder.
“Ms. Petito is believed to have died in Wyoming in late August 2021, more than two
weeks after she and Brian Laundrie visited Moab and interacted with Moab City Police.
At that time, our officers acted with kindness, respect, and empathy toward Ms. Petito.
The attorneys for the Petito family seem to suggest that somehow our officers could see
into the future based on this single interaction. In truth, on Aug. 12, no one could have
predicted the tragedy that would occur weeks later and hundreds of miles away, and the
City of Moab will ardently defend against this lawsuit.
If you or a loved one is a victim of domestic violence, the National Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached by dialing 800-799-7233. To get help, click here.