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Petito investigation raising questions: How should police respond to domestic violence?

Posted at 6:44 PM, Sep 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-22 08:00:07-04

PUEBLO — The homicide investigation into Gabby Petito is raising questions around how police officers should handle domestic violence calls.

Bodycamera footage was released by the Moab City Police Department from August 12, showing Petito visibly upset when she and her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, were pulled over after a domestic violence call had been made to 911.

The call stated "We drove by and the gentleman was slapping the girl".

However, in the video Petito claims she was the one slapping Laundrie.

Mike Slattery, Sergeant for the Special Victims Unit with the Pueblo Police Department, says victims covering up for their abuser is something they encounter frequently when responding to calls.

"I'd say probably 50% or better, either because of threats, or realization that they may be dependent on the other party for finances and things, they may try and recant," said Slattery.

Renee Gonzales, a survivor of domestic violence in Pueblo, says having an advocate on seen immediately when responding to domestic violence calls could be helpful for victims.

"Women like us, you know we've been through it, and you can hear people say everything's going to be ok. I know officers have training as well, but sometimes you just need that special person who works in that field," said Gonzales.

ACOVA offers on-scene victim assistance with the Pueblo Police Department, but typically wait until their assistance is requested by an officer to come to the call.

The YWCA is another agency in Pueblo offering assistance to victims of domestic violence. Maureen White, Executive Director of the YWCA, says there are a few key signs to look for in victims of domestic violence.

"I think that one of the things is really just the fear aspect... Do they seem anxious? Are they looking around to see where that person is when you're speaking to them?"

White says one idea is for anyone in complicated or abusive relationships to plan in advance for situations by communicating with family or friends in unsuspicious ways.

"Maybe asking them questions that they can answer with responses that won't tee-off the individual that might be abusing them," said White.

"Are you OK? If you are, tell me what the weather is like right now... If it's rainy, I'll know that you aren't OK."

If you or anyone you know is suffering from domestic violence, several resources in Pueblo include: