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Moab police considered charging Gabby Petito with domestic violence crime

Gabby Petito is seen after a stop by Moab, Utah police on a stop taken before she disappeared. (Photo: Moab PD)

Moab Police considered charging Gabby Petito, the missing 22-year-old woman who traveled through Utah, with a domestic violence crime in mid-August. That’s one of the revelations from body camera video that the department released.

A witness called police after seeing an argument between the two. Ultimately, officers decided they were dealing with a mental health crisis and not a domestic assault. No one was charged.

One officer in the video, talking to another officer, said it appeared that Petito was the primary aggressor. Fiancé Brian Laundrie said he’d been scratched up by her nails and rings after locking her out of the car.

“Now, the problem with her the primary aggressor is in incidents of domestic assault, be it a male or be it a female, we shall arrest,” an officer said about 22 minutes into the video. “That doesn’t necessarily mean they have to go to jail. We can do a citation if it meets one of three criteria. One of them is we can ensure they’re not going to further risk each other’s safety, but the problem with that is they live in the same vehicle.”

Licensed clinical social worker Jenn Oxborrow told 2News that it can be difficult for officers to determine who’s the primary aggressor in some domestic violence cases. She encouraged the public not to blame any victims or law enforcement.

“From what I saw of the video footage, it seemed like the law enforcement team was really trying to do a good job,” Oxborrow said, “trying to improve safety with minimal intervention or law enforcement response, but we just never know how these situations are going to play out. Ultimately, it’s the responsibility of the person who’s using violence and aggression to take responsibility for their actions.”

Officers helped to arrange lodging for Laundrie while Petito retained possession of the van. They told the two to stay separated for the night.

The Utah Domestic Violence Coalition has resources on its website along with free help around the clock by calling 1-800-897-LINK (5465).

The state of Utah also has a list of mental health resources on its website. Oxborrow stressed that even people without insurance or the ability to pay can find help.