SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — The City of Moab is backing its officers in light of a potential $50 million wrongful death lawsuit expected to be filed against them by the family of murdered Florida YouTube influencer Gabby Petito.

In August, the Petito family announced their intentions to sue Moab Police over a domestic abuse investigation involving Petito and her fiance Brian Laundrie dating back to Aug. 12, 2021. The couple was driving through Utah on the way to Wyoming when extended arguments between them erupted into violence near a Moab grocery store. Police responded to reports of Laundrie striking Petito but ultimately did not make any arrests or classify the incident as a domestic dispute.

Petito’s death came roughly two weeks after the Moab incident. Her body would not be found until Sept. 19, 2021.

The Moab Police released a statement and an independent report on the incident in January, both of which are publicly available. Today, Nov. 2, the City of Moab finally responded to the threat of the family’s lawsuit with the following statement:

— The City of Moab, Nov 2, 2022

After witnesses claimed to see a physical altercation between Laundrie and Petito, Moab police caught up with the couple in their van, pulling them over for speeding and swerving near the entrance to Arches National Park. They found Petito crying “uncontrollably,” according to the police report, and both Petito and Laundrie said they had been arguing throughout the day.

Petito admitted to striking Laundrie first, which led to a struggle between the two, which ended with Laundrie grabbing Petito by the face, leading to cuts. Laundrie also sustained scratches on his arm. Police eventually determined the incident not to be domestic assault. An independent investigation by Capt. Brandon Ratcliffe of the Price City Police Department from January, however, noted that just because Petito may have struck Laundrie first doesn’t mean she was the “predominant aggressor in [their] relationship,” and noted that Petito was likely a long-term victim of domestic violence.

“Would Gabby be alive today if this case was handled differently?” wrote Ratcliffe. “That is an impossible question to answer despite it being the answer many people want to know. Nobody knows and nobody will ever know the answer to that question.”

Authorities report that Laundrie told officers the couple had been traveling for four to five months, which “created emotional strain between them and increased the number of arguments.” He also said “issues between the two had been building over the last few days,” causing them to argue more than usual. While arguing in Moab, Laundrie says he tried to separate Petito from him so they could “both calm their emotions.”

On Sept. 30, bodycam video from a different angle was released that shows Petito telling an officer that Laundrie grabbed her jaw, but she hit him “a couple times” first.

Petito and Laundrie reportedly separated for the night, with Petito keeping the van and Laundrie getting lodging assistance from police.

Brian Steward, one of the lead attorneys in this case, said in August that his legal team agrees with the finding and the Moab officers “failed in their duty to protect Gabby.”

“Due to lack of training and access to critical domestic violence resources, the officers failed to properly investigate the reported domestic assault and, thus failed to fully appreciate or respond to Gabby’s life-threatening situation,” Steward said in a news release.

On Aug. 17, 2021, Laundrie flew from Salt Lake City back to Florida, and the couple remained separated until Aug. 23, when he returned to Utah. Petito last spoke to her parents a couple of days later and was never heard from again. Her body was found in the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming on Sept. 19.

On Sept. 23, officials issued a warrant for Laundrie’s arrest. He evaded law enforcement for nearly a month before his remains were located in the Carlton Reserve in Sarasota County, Fla. on Oct. 20, 2021, having taken his own life.

The Petito family also has an outstanding lawsuit against the parents of Laundrie on the grounds of “intentional infliction of emotional distress,” claiming the Laundries were aware Brian had murdered their daughter and chose not to act.