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Steve Griffin, KSL, File

University of Utah officer assigned to McCluskey case no longer with department

By Pat Reavy, KSL | Posted - Mar 7th, 2019 @ 11:49am


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SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah police officer who was assigned the Lauren McCluskey case has left the department, the university confirmed on Thursday.

The officer was no longer employed with the university's Department of Public Safety as of Wednesday, said U. spokesman Chris Nelson. He declined to say, however, whether the officer was fired or quit, citing privacy for personnel issues.

The officer worked for the department for three years.

Lauren McCluskey, 21, was shot and killed near her campus dorm on Oct. 22 by Melvin Shawn Rowland, 37, a convicted sex offender who was on the Utah Sex Offender Registry at the time of the killing. Rowland lied to McCluskey about his name and age. When McCluskey found out who he really was, she told police that Rowland attempted to blackmail her by demanding money in exchange for not distributing intimate pictures of her. He also seemingly tried to lure McCluskey out of her dorm alone.

But despite numerous phone calls to U. police by both Lauren and her mother, Jill McCluskey, expressing their concerns, the officer assigned to McCluskey's case never had a face-to-face meeting with her and never conducted a proper background check on Rowland, an ensuing investigation revealed. Lauren McCluskey even called the Salt Lake City Police Department because she feared university officers weren't doing enough.

Rowland took his own life several hours after killing McCluskey as Salt Lake police were closing in on him.

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Following the tragic incident, an independent panel was assigned to look at whether the school did enough to protect McCluskey and what changes could be made to make the campus safer. It came up with a list of 30 recommendations, 16 of those 30 directly involving the U. police department.

University President Ruth Watkins told the University of Utah Board of Trustees at its February meeting that no one had been fired because of what happened.

"I do not believe it serves the ultimate mission of enhancing campus safety to fire anyone who acted in good faith and is capable and deeply committed to doing better. At the same time, I fully expect accountability and compliance with these actions moving forward,” Watkins said.

However, both Watkins and U. Department of Public Safety Chief Dale Brophy have declined to say whether anyone was disciplined due to failed actions in the McCluskey case, stating that the department does not talk about personnel matters.

On Monday, Matt McCluskey, Jill's father, testified before Utah lawmakers, urging them to pass legislation that promotes sweeping changes to better protect college students who have been stalked, sexually assaulted or attacked by a significant other.

"Remember Lauren Jennifer McCluskey, who would have turned 22 Feb. 12 and graduated this May," the father urged a legislative panel at the state Capitol.

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