NEW YORK — A visibly distressed Gabby Petito repeatedly blamed herself for an August altercation with fiancé Brian Laundrie but admitted to police in Utah that he also caused an injury to her face, according to an extended body camera video released Thursday.
The Long Island woman, who was found dead in Wyoming days after she was reported missing last month, detailed the Aug. 12 incident while sitting in a police cruiser moments after cops pulled over the couple in their van. Police were responding to a 911 call from a witness who reported seeing a man hitting a woman.
“I guess, but I hit him first,” Petito told a responding officer who was trying to confirm the caller’s account.
“Where did he hit you? Don’t worry. Just be honest,” the officer asked.
“Well, he grabbed my face,” the 22-year-old replied while crying and holding her jaw, insisting her now-missing fiancé did not hit or punch her.
“Did he slap your face, or what?” the officer asked.
“Well, yeah, he grabbed me with his nail, and I guess this is why I definitely have a cut right here because I can feel it when I touch it, it burns,” she said.
Police in Moab, Utah, who had previously released shorter clips of the encounter, ultimately decided not to charge anyone as they classified the incident as a mental health crisis, not a domestic assault.
The couple’s altercation came during a cross-country trip that they were documenting on social media. About three weeks later, on Sept. 1, Laundrie returned to his Florida home by himself. Petito, whose family last heard from her in the final week of August, was never seen alive again.
The young woman, originally from Blue Point, N.Y., was reported missing Sept. 11 and was found dead in Wyoming about a week later. Her cause of death has been ruled a homicide, but it’s unclear how or when she died.
Laundrie, who lawyered up after her disappearance and did not cooperate with the investigation, went missing Sept. 14 and is now wanted on charges of bank card fraud. He is considered a person of interest in Petito’s death.
In the new video, the 23-year-old fiancé was seen giving his version of the events that led to the police encounter.
“She gets really worked up, and when she does, she swings, and she had her cellphone in her hand, so I was just trying to push her away,” he told police while still sitting in his vehicle.
The footage also captured the moment one of the officers called one of the witnesses to confirm what he had seen. The unidentified witness described seeing the couple “sort of squabbling over a phone.”
“I want to say that he was trying to grab her phone, and I’m not sure exactly why,” the witness was heard saying, later adding that the altercation seemed like “two kids fighting.”
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Police decided not to make any arrests and just separated the couple for the night as they believed neither party posed a serious risk to the other.
The city of Moab has since launched an investigation into the officers’ actions that day.
- By Nelson Oliveira, New York Daily News