University of Utah officer accused of sharing slain student’s extortion photos will not face charges

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FILE – In this Nov. 10, 2018, file photo, a photograph of University of Utah student and track athlete Lauren McCluskey, who was fatally shot on campus, is projected on the video board before the start of an NCAA college football game between Oregon and Utah in Salt Lake City. An investigation found Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020, that a group of University of Utah police officers made inappropriate comments about explicit photos of McCluskey, who had submitted the pictures as evidence in an extortion case shortly before her shooting death. The findings came after the Salt Lake Tribune unearthed allegations that an officer had bragged about having the images of McCluskey before her 2018 slaying. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

SALT LAKE CITY (NewsNation Now) — A former University of Utah police officer will not face criminal charges after being accused of sharing explicit photos of a student who was later killed on the campus, prosecutors said Thursday.

The Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office made the announcement involving Miguel Dera, who was accused of showing co-workers the photos of 21-year-old Lauren McCluskey.

McCluskey was shot and killed in 2018 by 37-year-old Melvin Shawn Rowland, who authorities said was harassing and blackmailing her for weeks prior to her death. Police said Rowland killed himself hours after shooting McCluskey.

Deras was assigned to the case after she sought police assistance to stop the harassment. McCluskey provided Deras with explicit photos taken of her, which were to be used in the investigation.

The Utah Department of Public Safety found in August that Deras showed the photos of McCluskey to at least three male colleagues without a work-related reason.

The department’s report included allegations that there were unprofessional comments made about the photos. Deras did not download or digitally share the photos.

District Attorney Sim Gill said the former officer’s actions were “definitely reckless,” but there is no state law addressing the misconduct.

Deras has since been fired from the University of Utah police.

“We’re incensed like everyone else by the behavior. It was inappropriate,” Gill said. “But if there’s not a statute, there’s nothing we can do.”

McCluskey’s mother, Jill McCluskey, criticized Gill’s decision in a tweet, saying it could create a chilling effect for women in similar situations.

Family attorney Jim McConkie said Lauren McCluskey was harmed while she was alive by the officer sharing her photos.

“What Gill is saying to women with this decision is, ‘We can’t help you. Don’t come to us,'” McConkie said.

McCluskey was a senior and student-athlete at the University of Utah majoring in communications at the time of her murder.

The Associated Press and NewsNation affiliate KTVX contributed to this report.

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