Great Britain

Moab police chief takes leave of absence amid anger over Petito body-cam stop

The chief of the Moab police department in Utah has decided to go on a leave of absence, days after the city announced an investigation into the department's handling of a dispute between Gabby Petito and her fiancé Brian Laundrie.

Bret Edge on Monday requested some time off through the Family Medical Leave Act, the city's communication manager Lisa Church said.

Last week, Moab city officials launched an investigation into the police department that dealt with the couple in August, just weeks before Petito was allegedly killed.

The 22-year-old YouTuber's remains were discovered on 19 September from Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park, after a week-long nationwide search. Her death was confirmed as a case of homicide.

Moab police officers interacted with Petito and Mr Laundrie on 12 August after a bystander called 911 to report an incident of a domestic dispute.

“We drove by and the gentleman was slapping the girl,” the caller said, according to 911 audio from Grand County Sheriff’s Office. “Then we stopped. They ran up and down the sidewalk. He proceeded to hit her, hopped in the car and they drove off.”

Although the police left without filing any charges, the incident caught on the body cam showed Petito sobbing and breathing heavily. An officer was seen telling her that they considered her the aggressor and were about to file domestic violence charges against her.

Based on the officers’ suggestion, Mr Laundrie spent the night separately at a hotel while Petito stayed in the van.

City officials in a statement said that the police department had received criticism and praise for “their response and their resolution of the incident involving Ms Petito and Mr Laundrie”.

“The Moab City Police Department has clear standards for officer conduct during a possible domestic dispute and our officers are trained to follow those standards and protocol. At this time, the City of Moab is unaware of any breach of Police Department policy during this incident. However, the City will conduct a formal investigation and, based on the results, will take any next steps that may be appropriate,” the statement said.

The couple were road-tripping across the country in Petito’s van when she went missing. Petito's family declared her missing on 11 September, 10 days after Mr Laundrie returned to his family home in Florida.

Meanwhile, the police in Florida continue to search for Mr Laundrie in a 25,000-acre nature reserve in Sarasota County, where he fled on 14 September. He has been non-cooperative throughout the investigation and has been named a person of interest in the case.

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