It’s no secret the officers who pulled over Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie screwed up. The bodycam footage has been viewed millions of times. We all watched as cops decided Gabby was “the primary aggressor” and threatened to put the distraught 22-year-old in jail for a night — while telling Brian he “did nothing wrong,” even apologizing to him for the inconvenience of the stop. And of course they sent the couple on their way, only for the poor girl to die at the hands of her fiancé just two weeks later.
So back in August when Gabby’s family announced they’d be launching a $50 million wrongful death lawsuit against the Moab Police Department, it wasn’t exactly a surprise. On Thursday the quartet of parents, Joseph and Tara Petito and Nichole and Jim Schmidt, officially filed their promised suit. In a press conference, Nichole explained:
“We feel we need to bring justice because she could have been protected that day. There are laws put in place to protect victims, and those laws were not followed, and we don’t want this to happen to anyone else.”
See the full presser (below):
The city of Moab swore to fight the lawsuit, saying in an official response:
“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.”
In defense of the cops, they even said 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.”
Like we said, it seemed to us they had a pretty good case just with everything the public knows. Heck, we assumed they could just roll in a monitor and play the video of the August 12, 2021 stop to the jury.
Not only that, an independent investigation has already confirmed that cops made “several unintentional mistakes” during the stop, including failure to take either into custody despite injuries and failure to get an official statement from the witness who called about Brian hitting Gabby in the first place.
Related: Park Ranger Warned Gabby About ‘Toxic’ Relationship With Brian Laundrie
But there’s apparently more to it…
The Sun got hold of the complaint, which does more than accuse the police force of a “sloppy investigation” — it goes after the officers individually! Officer Eric Pratt was the senior law enforcement officer on the scene — or should we say Detective Pratt. Yeah, he’s the one who got promoted afterwards and became the school resource officer at a local elementary school.
Part of the 35-page complaint paints Pratt as an unprofessional, abusive womanizer, citing his time working in Salina, Utah from 2008 to 2017. The legal team claims:
“During his time as police chief in Salina, Pratt carried on several extra-marital affairs in the small town.”
Wow. One of his alleged mistresses, quoted in the complaint as Witness 1, claimed Pratt often brushed off following through on investigations and ignored cases if it meant more paperwork, saying things like “It’s too much paperwork,” or “There’s no way I’m doing all that paperwork.”
She also claims he was violent in their relationship, once telling her, “If this had been a week ago, I would have been digging a grave and you would have been in it.” She says he used his position as chief of police to coerce her into keeping quiet about their affair. The suit alleges:
“Pratt pulled Witness 1 over in her car, with her 5-year-old daughter in the back seat… Pratt credibly and clearly threatened her stating, ‘If any of this gets out, I will kill you with a crowbar.’”
The frightened ex — who came forward after learning Pratt had been promoted — says she reported Pratt to city officials. While there is no record of any disciplinary action, he did resign from his position a police chief — stating he was “leaving full-time law enforcement” to “pursue other interests.” He also said on a podcast, per the complaint, that he’d become “disillusioned” with police work and would often find “loopholes” in his job.
And yet he eventually found another law enforcement position in Moab. As the lawsuit states clearly:
“As an officer who described himself as being ‘disillusioned’ with police work and admitted to ‘finding loopholes’ to avoid applying the law, Officer Pratt should never have been rehired as an officer for the Moab Police Department.”
The suit says Pratt’s “dangerous approach is evident throughout his interaction with Gabby and Brian” and that it’s clear in the video that he “manipulates” the other officers into not following through with their duties “to get around the requirements of Utah law and his duty to protect Gabby.”
Not only that, the suit claims Pratt — now divorced — is still abusing his position:
“Upon information and belief, Officer Pratt is currently the subject of an internal affairs investigation for professional and sexual misconduct involving sex with another Moab Police Department officer.”
Wow. We didn’t expect them to dig up so much more on the officers involved. But this looks SO BAD for the Moab PD. We mean… this is the guy they’re swearing to defend??
What do YOU think of the new info in the wrongful death suit? Should Moab just settle or what??
[Image via FOX13/YouTube.]