A University of Utah police officer kept explicit photos of a student who complained her ex was trying to extort her, and showed them off to other officers at least four times before she was shot dead.
Officer Miguel Deras even showed the photos of slain student Lauren McCluskey to a superior at the murder scene on campus on the night of her death, an investigation shows.
McCluskey, 21, was shot several times by her ex-boyfriend Melvin Rowland, 37, on October 22, 2018, outside her dorm room in Salt Lake City. He later died by suicide.
Rowland was a registered sex offender who lied to her about his name and age, and she reported him to police saying he was extorting her for money using her explicit photos.
In May the Salt Lake Tribune revealed McCluskey reported the extortion to Officer Deras and provided her intimate photos as evidence, and Deras inappropriately kept them.
On Wednesday Utah’s Department of Public Safety (DPS) released findings in their investigation into police misconduct in the case, and found that Deras showed her photos to at least three of his male co-workers without a work-related reason.
One staffer said Deras commented about getting to ‘look at them whenever he wants’, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
University of Utah campus cop Miguel Deras showed explicit photos of 21-year-old student athlete Lauren McCluskey (left) to his peers after she turned them in as evidence on at least four occasions. She reported her ex-boyfriend Melvin Rowland (right) saying he was using her explicit images to extort her for money
On Wednesday Utah’s Department of Public Safety (DPS) released findings in their investigation into police misconduct in the case and found that Deras showed her photos to at least three of his male co-workers without a work-related reason
That employee admitted he too made crude remarks on the photos.
Another employee said other officers said Deras was ‘lucky’ to get to work on the case and McCluskey was a ‘cute girl.’
At the time of the initial report the university confirmed Deras showed the photos to his peers but said their internal probe was not thorough enough and called in DPS to investigate further.
The probe determined Deras showed McCluskey’s photos on four occasions.
McCluskley first came into the department on October 13, 2018 to fill out a statement over her concerns of extortion and reported the incident to Deras.
That same day he first opened the intimate photos though his email account on his personal phone to show them to a superior at the campus department asking how to upload them into the evidence system.
He had been working as a campus cop for about three years at that point.
On October 15 he showed them to a second supervisor, a sergeant, asking again how to attach the photos to the case file.
The third occasion was after a staff briefing in October 2018 where he showed three other officers the photos, even though they were not working on the case.
‘Sometime after the briefing, Officer Deras showed the images to a group of officers,’ the report said.
He showed them again on a fourth occasion to a sergeant after the shooting at the crime scene.
He displayed the images after the superior said, ‘I wonder what she looked like.’
‘He said it was a sexually explicit image. He says he doesn’t recall anything else about the photo, only that it was a quick glimpse. … When he saw the photo, he could have said something along the lines of “Um, she’s cute” but doesn’t recall what he said. … He didn’t think Miguel [Deras] showed it to him to get a reaction out of him or for shock value,’ the report stated.
One peer said Deras boasted about getting to ‘look at them whenever he wants’. Other officers made crude comments by calling him ‘lucky’ to have the case and McCluskey a ‘cute girl’
Investigators were unable to determine if Deras had saved or downloaded the photos onto his personal phone, one which one former cop claimed to have seen.
The report did find that Deras opened the images on his phone by accessing his work email and displayed them that way on four occasions.
One was after the briefing and three other times were with supervisors.
However, it’s not clear if Deras will face any consequences by the Logan Police Department where he was hired after leaving the university in 2019.
The Logan Police Chief also promised to investigate the matter.
He said Wednesday it will ‘take time to read and disseminate the report’.
The state has not determined whether it will suspend or revoke Deras’ police certification based on the findings, according to Maj. Scott Stephenson, who oversees the Peace Officer Standards Training (POST) division, which is responsible for discipline within law enforcement.
Following the report the University of Utah announced Wednesday it is ‘pursuing action against individual officers’.
The student athlete’s parents Matt and Jill McCluskey pictured together at her vigil in October 2018
Police Chief Rodney Chatman confirmed that action was taken against three individuals, largely for failing to report the misconduct when it first occurred or participating in the inappropriate remarks.
‘It is inexcusable for any law enforcement officer to discuss photos or information provided by a victim outside of clear and legitimate law enforcement reasons,’ Chatman said in a statement.
For the review DPS staff interviewed nearly 40 current and former employees of the University’s campus police. Deras declined to participate in the probe.
His attorneys previously denied he showed off any of McCluskey’s photos.
Now his attorney Jeremy Jones says that Deras did show the photos during a routine briefing, but only to ask how they should be handled and stored and did not make any inappropriate comments.
‘From my client’s recollection, he never participated in that. He showed the photos in the briefing, he didn’t ‘smoke and joke’ about the photos at any time,’ he said.