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Gabby Petito’s Parents File $50 Million Lawsuit Against Utah Police Over Her Death

Gabby Petito

Gabby Petito

Gabby Petito.
Photo: Gabby Petito Instagram

Gabby Petito‘s parents are suing police in Utah for $50 million, alleging they could have stopped her death.

In their lawsuit, according to a press conference with the family held Thursday, Nichole Schmidt and Joe Petito argue that their daughter would be alive today had the Moab Police Department not mishandled their Aug. 12, 2021, interaction with her and fiancé Brian Laundrie, who killed her weeks later.

The lawsuit alleges that the police who stopped the couple over a year ago — after a bystander reported witnessing a domestic dispute between them — failed Gabby.

“The family would like me to emphasize that the purpose of this lawsuit is to honor Gabby’s legacy by demanding accountability and working through change in the system to protect victims of domestic abuse and violence and prevent such tragedies in the future,” attorney James W. McConkie said during the conference, captured by Fox 13 News, in Utah.

McConkie did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

Dick Baldwin, who is also representing Gabby’s parents, explained at the news conference that the lawsuit accuses Moab police of “misidentifying Brian as the victim in this case, when clearly he was not” during the 2021 incident.

It also claims police “intentionally sought out loopholes of Utah law to be able to avoid enforcing non-discretionary law in the state of Utah.”

The parents of the late travel influencer allege that officers were not properly trained on how to deal with incidents like this one, Baldwin said during the news briefing.

A statement from unidentified witnesses claim that Moab officer Eric Pratt was an alleged “domestic abuser who has misused authority and threats of violence to control and intimidate sexual partners, making [it] clear why officer Pratt was fundamentally biased in his approach to the investigation: identifying with Gabby’s abuser, ignoring the victim and her injuries, and intentionally looking for loopholes to get around the requirements of Utah law and his duty to protect Gabby.”

The lawsuit states that the police department should have been aware of Pratt’s history and deemed him unfit to serve.

RELATED VIDEO: Gabby Petito Seen Shopping with Brian Laundrie Just Before Her Murder in Newly Unearthed Footage

“No one here, the four of us, don’t want to be here. We’d give it up in a second if she was back,” Joe said during the briefing, referencing him and Nichole, along with their respective spouses.

“We feel we need to bring justice because she could have been protected that day,” Nichole added. “There are laws put in place to protect victims, and those laws were not followed, and we don’t want this to happen to anybody else.”

The city of Moab denied any wrongdoing from city police in a statement shared with PEOPLE.

“The death of Gabrielle Petito in Wyoming is a terrible tragedy, and we feel profound sympathy for the Petito and Schmidt families and the painful loss they have endured. At the same time, it is clear that Moab City Police Department officers are not responsible for Gabrielle Petito’s eventual murder,” the statement begins.

It adds, “Ms. Petito is believed to have died in Wyoming in late August 2021, more than two weeks after she and Brian Laundrie visited Moab and interacted with Moab City Police. At that time, our officers acted with kindness, respect, and empathy toward Ms. Petito.”

“The attorneys for the Petito family seem to suggest that somehow our officers could see into the future based on this single interaction. In truth, on Aug. 12, no one could have predicted the tragedy that would occur weeks later and hundreds of miles away, and the City of Moab will ardently defend against this lawsuit,” the city concludes.

Responding to the statement during the news briefing, lawyers for the Petito family said legislature should have forseen the outcome of Gabby’s death.

Last September, body camera footage of the encounter was released, showing Laundrie unfazed as well as a sobbing Petito, who defended her 23-year-old boyfriend’s actions, telling cops she had hit him in the face during their fight.

In paperwork filed after the incident, police categorized the entire call as a “mental health crisis” rather than an incident of domestic violence.

If you are experiencing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or go to thehotline.org. All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.