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Gabby Petito admitted during a police stop in Utah that her fiancé Brian Laundrie hit her during a physical fight between the pair, but then immediately tried to blame herself, saying that she “hit him first,” according to new body cam footage.
Additional details about the Aug. 12 exchange between the couple and Moab Police were revealed in newly released body camera footage from a second officer at the scene.
The footage, obtained by local station KSTU, shows the officer approaching the couple’s white Ford Transit van after it was pulled over at the entrance of Arches National Park.
“Hey, we got a call about a male hitting a female,” he said, adding that the witness reported seeing the pair get into a van and drive off.
“Sorry…I, I, I, I don’t have time to defend myself by sitting here,” a visibly agitated Laundrie responded. “But I pushed her away. She gets really worked up, and when she does, she swings and she had her cell phone in her hand. So, I was just trying to push her away.”
Police then separated the pair and spoke to Petito in more depth about what had occurred.
“So, there’s two people that saw him hit you,” he said.
“Well to be honest, I definitely hit him first,” Petito responded.
The officer attempted to clarify what happened with a visibly upset Petito.
"You slapped him first? And just on his face?” the officer asked, according to the footage also obtained by CNN.
“Well, he kept telling me to shut up,” she said.
“Did he hit you, though?” the officer added, saying he wanted to know “the truth.”
“I guess, I guess, yeah, but I hit him first,” Petito said.
The officer then asks where Laundrie hit her during the fight.
“Well, he like grabbed my face, like, I guess,” she said. “He didn’t like, hit me in the face. He didn’t, like, punch me in the face or anything.”
“Did he slap your face or what?” the officer responded.
“Well he, like, grabbed me with his nail, and I guess that’s why it looks … definitely I was cut right here,” she said rubbing her cheek, “because I can feel it. When I touch it, it burns.”
As officers are trying to piece together what happened, the officer also checks in with a witness who had seen the pair fighting outside Moonflower Community Cooperative in Moab.
“Did you ever see the male strike the female,” the officer can be heard asking, according to Fox News, which also obtained the camera footage.
“I wouldn’t say that,” the witness replied. “I think I saw maybe a push or a shove but not a full on punch to a face or anything.”
When the officer says that it sounds like the witness did see Petito “slapping” Laundrie, he responds affirmatively.
The witness told police that he believed Petito and Laundrie had been “fighting over a phone” and said he saw Laundrie trying to prevent her from getting into the van, according to a witness statement obtained by Oxygen.com.
“She eventually climbed in/over him & over to the passenger seat,” the witness wrote.
Petito explained to officers in the newly released footage—and footage released from another officer earlier this month—that she suffered from anxiety.
She also begged the officers not to separate her from Laundrie.
“Like, we’re a team, please,” she said. “It’s going to give me so much anxiety. Can we just have, like, a driving ticket?”
Police deemed Petito the primary aggressor and considered arresting her for domestic violence, but ultimately classified the incident as more of a “mental/emotional health ‘break,’” and opted to separate the couple for the night and let them go, according to a police report obtained by Oxygen.com.
As they were debating how to handle the situation, the body camera footage shows an officer called into a supervisor to ask if there was “anything” he could do to avoid charging Petito.
“I mean it’s so minor. It’s hard to say, right?” he can be heard saying, according to KSTU.
It’s not clear how the supervisor responds, but the officer can also be seen talking to another colleague about the decision.
“In no way shape or form … that I can perceive does 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,” he said.
He later added that, “Society and the judges and everyone can judge me for this. I am looking at a 110-pound female and her fiancé who have no means to be separated. He doesn’t want to pursue it. She’s not a threat to him.”
The officers’ handling of the situation has come under increased scrutiny after Petito disappeared just weeks later.
Her body was found on Sept. 19 in a remote area of the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, where she and Laundrie had been staying in a converted camper van before she disappeared. A medical examiner determined she died of a homicide.
Laundrie arrived home in Florida without her on Sept. 1 and refused to cooperate with investigators looking into her disappearance.
He disappeared himself on Sept. 14 after his parents said he left to go hiking at the Carlton Reserve and never returned.
The City of Moab announced last week they planned to conduct an independent investigation into how the officers handled the call.
“At this time, the City of Moab is unaware of any breach of Police Department policy during this incident,” they said in a statement obtained by Oxygen.com. “However, the City will conduct a formal investigation and, based on the results, will take any next steps that might be appropriate.”
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