At least one legal expert is saying police should have arrested Brian Laundrie during a domestic incident that was captured on Utah police officers’ body cam footage before travel blogger Gabby Petito’s death.
Judge Jeanine Pirro insisted on her self-titled Fox News show Saturday that police had probable cause to arrest Laundrie after a man called 911 and reported that he saw a “gentleman” slap Petito.
“The primary duty of law enforcement officers in a domestic violence call is to protect the victim and enforce the law,” Pirro said, according to Mediaite.
“If the peace officer has probable cause to believe there will be continued violence against the alleged victim, the officer shall arrest and take the perpetrator into custody,” Pirro quoted the statute, explaining, “shall means must.”
“That was wrong”
When police responded to the scene, they nearly arrested Petito after she said she was the one who had hit Laundrie and appeared apologetic, distressed, and confused. Shortly after the police let the couple go, Petito went missing and her body was later found in Wyoming.
Pirro also didn’t buy statements from police that domestic dispute laws were intended to address local incidents, not travelers as these two were.
“That was wrong,” Pirro declared, as Mediaite reported. “Domestic violence laws were made to protect all domestic violence victims, wherever that crime occurs. Your address is irrelevant.”
Pirro said that police are trained to suspect abuse in cases where a potential victim is crying, claims responsibility, or seems afraid to speak up — all of which apply to Petito in the body cam footage.
She also pointed out that witnesses said they saw Laundrie “repeatedly” hitting Petito, holding on to her phone, and preventing her from getting into the retrofitted cargo van they were traveling in.
The search continues
As of Monday, Laundrie remains missing as a person of interest in the case. Police became suspicious of his involvement after he returned home from the road trip without Petito and gave no explanation of where she had gone.
Police searched Laundrie’s parents’ house and removed items that might be evidence in the case, but Laundrie had already fled.
“An arrest should have been considered and there was probable cause to make it,” Pirro concluded Saturday, according to Mediaite. If the police had acted as Pirro suggested, it’s possible Petito might be alive today.