The Florida police chief tasked with keeping tabs on Brian Laundrie before a massive manhunt for the fugitive admitted to “human error” in the case.
North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison said cops dropped the ball when they spotted the fugitive outside his parents’ home on Sept. 15 — only to later learn it was actually Laundrie’s mother.
“As a leader, what do I do?” North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison said at a recent forum. “No, people want open transparency and honesty from their law enforcement officials.”
“Yes, we made a mistake,” he added. “It was human error, but I still stand behind my team.”
But Garrison, speaking at the South County Tiger Bay Club in Venice on Friday, said the gaffe did not hamper the investigation — Laundrie had gone missing a day earlier and may have already been dead.
“Now we know that, by the time we became the lead agency, Brian had already left the house and presumably had already been deceased out in the Carlton Reserve.”
Gabby Petito, 22, was reported missing by her mother in Suffolk County on Sept. 11 after Laundrie returned home from the young couple’s cross-country trip 10 days earlier.
The Blue Point native’s body was found at a Wyoming campground on Sept. 19.
Laundrie, the subject of a weeks-long manhunt in the case, was found at the 25,000-acre Carlton Reserve on Oct. 21, although the cause of death has yet to be determined.
Red-faced North Port cops admitted last month they mistook Laundrie’s mom, Roberta, for her fugitive son while watching their home before he was reported missing.
Sarasota County Sheriff Kurt Hoffman, who was part of the panel with Garrison and took part in the manhunt, said Laundrie was likely dead by then.
He defended the decision to continue to search Carlton for weeks despite reported Laundrie sightings as far north as North Carolina.
“That guy went out there and by all accounts probably committed suicide and he was right out there where we thought he was,” Hoffman said. “There was four feet of water out there at the time.”