Brian Laundrie’s family had been under pressure from protesters outside their home for more than a day by the time they reported him missing – including one man shouting into a megaphone from the street just hours before police arrived to take their statement.
Mr Laundrie, 23, was named a person of interest in the disappearance of his girlfriend, Gabby Petito – then vanished himself. His family reported him missing to police in their town of North Port, Florida on Friday, saying they hadn’t seen him since he left the house on Tuesday (14 September).
They’d already been beset by protesters, who started showing up on Thursday with signs and chants, demanding to know the whereabouts of their son’s missing girlfriend. One man on Friday, who identified himself as Jonathan Riches, exhorted the Laundries through the megaphone to “stop hiding – accept responsibility.”
“Laundrie Family: You need to speak to investigators. You need to let them know what you know,” said Mr Riches on Friday afternoon, calling out Brian Laundrie and his parents before it was revealed the 23-year-old was nowhere to be found.
“Help them bring her home,” said Mr Riches, wearing a MAGA hat and clad fully in red and claiming to be friends with a member of Petito’s family. “Stop coddling and enabling your son.”
Officers arrived to speak to the family in the evening, with the North Port Police Department tweeting at 7:09pm local time that officers were “currently speaking with the Laundrie Family at their request. At this time, we are not speaking with Brian”.
A crowd of protesters had again gathered outside the Laundrie home while officers were inside, as the street remained packed with journalists reporting on the ongoing story.
It was only later revealed that the family told police their son had disappeared. Five local agencies are continuing to search for him but it’s feared he could survive for months in Florida’s vast natural landscape. It’s not yet known if he is armed.
Police have confirmed that their search for Mr Laundrie is a missing persons investigation and that he is not wanted in connection with any crime.
He and Ms Petito, whom he met growing up on Long Island, embarked upon a cross-country road trip in July, documenting their “van-life” on YouTube and ostensibly aiming to reach Oregon by Halloween.
The pair had an altercation last month in Moab, Utah that warranted police intervention but did not result in charges. At the time, officers determined that Ms Petito, 22, had been the aggressor.
She was last seen in Wyoming, where authorities continue to search. Her boyfriend, who returned to his parents’ home in Florida in her van, refused to be interviewed by police from the outset.
Police said this weekend that their first time speaking with the Laundrie family occurred when they contacted the department to report their son missing.