Thousands Demand Florida Police Be Investigated For Handling Of Petito Case


Photo: @Gabspetito/Instagram

A petition calling for an investigation into the North Port Police Department's handling of the Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie investigation has already gotten more than 3,500 signatures as of Monday (November 8) morning.

The Change.org petition 'Gabby's Safe Haven 2.0' calls on Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to launch an "internal investigation into this case," claiming the department was incompetent in its handling of the missing person cases related to Petito and Laundrie, her fiancé and a person of interest in her death.

“Police deal with citizens on a daily basis and the actions of incompetence can have tremendous, life-altering effects on numerous people in their communities,” the petition stated. “What happens when you have a department that’s full of incompetence? Well, Governor DeSantis, this case right here is what happens.”

Last month, local authorties said they now believe Laundrie may have died two days after his fiancée, Gabby Petito, was reported missing.

Joshua Taylor, a public information officer for the North Port Police Department told PEOPLE Magazine "there is a very good possibility" that the 23-year-old was actually dead when investigators monitoring his parents' Florida home mistook his mother for him last month.

Taylor also told WINK News that investigators made several lapses while attempting to keep a close eye on Laundrie prior to his disappearance and an ensuing month-long search, which included the belief that Brian was spotted leaving in his grey Ford Mustang and thought to return days later, but it was actually his mother, Roberta, mistaken for him as they were "built similarly."

In a statement to PEOPLE, Taylor reiterated the situation, but clarified that the "misidentification did not have a big impact on costs and the investigation.

"Other than confusion, it likely changed nothing," Taylor said. "There is a very good possibility that Brian was already deceased. He still needed to be found. We just wanted people to better understand why we thought we knew Brian was in his home."

Laundrie was then reported missing by his family the following day.

“When the family reported him [missing] on Friday. That was certainly news to us that they had not seen him,” Taylor said via WINKNews.com earlier this week. “We thought that we seen Brian initially come back into that home on that Wednesday. But we now know that that wasn’t true.”

The initial autopsy results for Laundrie were inconclusive, according to the Laundrie family's attorney, Steven Bertolino on October 25.

“No manner or cause of death was determined," Bertolino said in a statement to NBC News, adding that Laundrie's remains would be sent to an anthropologist "for further evaluation."

On October 21, the Federal Bureau of Investigation confirmed human remains found in Florida one day prior matched the 23-year-old.

“The FBI is grateful for the tremendous investigative support from our partners: North Port Police Department, Sarasota Police Department, Jackson Police Department, Charlotte County Sheriffs Office, Lee County Sheriffs Office, Sarasota County Sheriffs Office, Teton County Sheriff's Office, Teton County Search and Rescue, the Florida Wildlife Commission, the National Park Service, and the U.S. Forest Service,” FBI Denver announced in a news release shared on its verified Twitter account.

Prior to the confirmation, Bertolino said "the probability is strong" that the human remains discovered were Brian's prior to confirmation by the FBI and said the 23-year-old's parents were part of the team searching for him during an appearance on CNN.

"It's quite sad, you can imagine as a parent, finding your son's belonging alongside from the remains. That's got to be heartbreaking. And I can tell you that they are heartbroken," Bertolino told Chris Cuomo.

The FBI confirmed the discovery of human remains, as well as items -- including a backpage and notebook -- belonging to Laundrie in the Carlton Reserve campsite in Venice, Florida last Wednesday, where Laundrie's parents had previously claimed their son was last seen hiking in after he returned to Florida from a cross country trip without Petito.

On October 12, Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue -- who performed an autopsy on Petito -- announced her death was ruled as a death by strangulation and the manner of death to be a homicide during a press conference on Tuesday (October 12).

Dr. Blue said Petito's death is believed to have occurred 3-4 weeks prior to her remains being found on September 19 and confirmed to match her days later.

Dr. Blue confirmed the ruling was made while working alongside local and federal authorities. No other information will be released in adherence with state law.

Laundrie was at the center of a publicized search by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and local authorities at the Carlton Reserve prior to his own remains being discovered.

Dr. Blue said local law enforcement would decide who would be charged in connection to Petito's homicide case.

On October 7, Chris Laundrie joined authorities in their search of Carlton Reserve for his son, according to family attorney Steven Bertolino.

Remnants of a campsite that appeared to have been recently used were reportedly the focus of the search, a source close to the Laundrie family told CNN's Chris Cuomo on October 6.

On September 30, police released additional bodycam footage which shows Petito telling an officer that an argument with Laundrie got physical.

The newer footage stems from the incident on August 12 in Moab, Utah in which police made contact with Petito and Laundrie after a bystander called the Moab Police Department and reported seeing a man hitting a woman.

Officers pulled over the van Laundrie and Petito were traveling in on their cross-country trip and Petito told officers that she intially slapped Laundrie before he retaliated.

"I guess, but I hit him first," Petito said when asked by an officer if Laundrie hit her in the face.

"Where did he hit you? Don’t worry. Just be honest," the officer asked.

"Well, he grabbed my face," Petito said.

"Did he slap your face? Or what?" the officer responded.

"Well like, yeah he grabbed me with his nail, and I guess that’s why I definitely have a cut right here because I can feel it when I touch it, it burns," she said, while holding her jaw and crying.

The video then shows Laundrie recanting his side of the incident.

"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," Laundrie said.

The new video adds to previously released bodycam footage showing the couple addressing the incident with police, which an officer described as a mental health crisis, not a domestic assault, according to a police report.

The city of Moab announced on September 28 an independent investigation will be conducted on officers' handling of the situation involving Petito and Laundrie.

In September, an arrest warrant was issued for Laundrie after a grand jury indicited him for his "use of unauthorized devices" during the events following the death of Petito.

The indictment obtained by CNN accused Laundrie of using a debit card and PIN number for accounts that didn't belong to him between August 30 to September 1 in order to make purchases totaling more than $1,000.

A source close to Laundrie's family told CNN the 23-year-old left his own wallet and cell phone behind when he was last seen leaving his parents' Florida home 10 days ago after he initially returned to the area from a cross-country road trip without Petito, who was reported missing on September 11.

The source added that Laundrie's parents were concerned he might harm himself at the time he left their home.

An attorney for Laundrie's family emphasized that the arrest warrant isn't related specifically to Petito's death, rather incidents committed by Laundrie afterward.

"It is my understanding that the arrest warrant for Brian Laundrie is related to activities occurring after the death of Gabby Petito and not related to her actual demise," Steve Bertolino said in a statement. "The FBI is focusing on locating Brian and when that occurs the specifics of the charges covered under the indictment will be addressed in the proper forum."

"While this warrant allows law enforcement to arrest Mr. Laundrie, the FBI and our partners across the country continue to investigate the facts and circumstances of Ms. Petito's homicide," added FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael Schneider. "We urge individuals with knowledge of Mr. Laundrie's role in this matter or his current whereabouts to contact the FBI."


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