A University of Utah police officer shared nude photographs of Lauren McCluskey with at least three men following a staff briefing about McCluskey’s complaints she was being extorted by man she once dated — just days before the student-athlete was found shot to death in her car.
The university released an in-depth report from the Utah Department of Public Safety on Wednesday, the Salt Lake Tribune reported, three months after the school determined its internal review wasn’t enough and asked the state agency to step in.
The Tribune sparked the investigation with a report in May about the misconduct by Miguel Deras, the officer assigned to McCluskey’s case.
McCluskey told Deras that someone was extorting her over private, nude photos. The extortionist, identified as a man she dated for about a month, demanded $1,000. She paid the money, but when the threats didn’t stop, she contacted the police, as CrimeOnline previously reported.
The 21-year-old student-athlete was found dead in October 2018, in her car near the medical towers on campus. According to the University of Utah Police Lt. Brian Wahlin, a convicted sex offender, identified as 37-year-old Melvin Rowland, is believed to have fatally shot McCluskey. Hours after McCluskey’s death, police found Rowland inside a church, dead from self-inflicted gunshot wounds.
McCluskey gave Deras the photographs after he responded to one of her calls. He allegedly saved the photos on his personal phone and bragged to at least one officer that he could look at them whenever he wanted, according to court documents. The state DPS report could not confirm that Deras had saved the photos to his phone because he switched phones shortly after McCluskey’s death. But, the report says, he accessed the photos from his work email at least four times:
- October 13: After McCluskey gave him the photos and other evidence for her case, Deras, who had been with the department for three years, showed the photos to a supervisor and asked how to upload the pictures to the department’s evidence database
- October 15: Deras showed the photos to a second supervisor, again asking how to attach them to a case file.
- October 18: After a briefing, Deras showed the photos to three officers who were not working on the case, allegedly commenting that he could look at them “whenever I want.”
- October 22: At the crime scene where McCluskey was killed, Deras showed a sergeant who said, “I wonder what she looked like.”
Deras, who was never disciplined for the incident, left the University of Utah in September 2019 and now works for the Logan Police Department, which released a statement Wednesday saying it had been provided a redacted copy of the DPS report by a reporter.
“The report is lengthy and will take time to read and disseminate,” the department said. ” … We will have further comment once we have had time to review the case information in its entirety.”
The Tribune reported that Maj Scott Stephenson, who oversees the state’s training division, said authorities haven’t decided whether to suspend or revoke Deras’s police certification. But the university said it was pursuing action against individual officers” without offering details.
“What I learned through the course of this investigation was troubling to me,” Police Chief Rodney Chatman told the paper. “It is not the way we will be doing business.”
In 2019, McCluskey’s parents filed a $56 million federal lawsuit against the college and campus police.
“There were numerous opportunities to protect her during the almost two weeks between the time when our daughter began expressing repeated, elevating, and persistent concerns about her situation and the time of her murder,” Jill and Matthew McCluskey wrote.
University officers are accused of dismissing the stalking claims made by McCluskey — suggesting she “was the victim of an online scam,” according to the 51-page lawsuit.
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[Feature Photo via AP/Rick Bowmer]