University of Utah officers ‘inappropriately’ commented on slain student’s extortion photos, report finds

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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 (News Nation/KTVX) – The University of Utah released the findings of an investigation into the misconduct allegations of a former campus police officer assigned to the Lauren McCluskey case.

In October 2018, McCluskey was murdered on campus by a man she briefly dated. The former campus police officer, Miguel Deras, was accused of inappropriately sharing and bragging about having access to intimate photos that were used to extort McCluskey before her death.

After the allegations surfaced this May, newly-hired Chief of Police Rodney Chatman requested an independent investigation into the matter. Chatman was hired in January amid calls for improvements to campus safety following McCluskey’s murder.

According to the report released Wednesday, investigators found “no evidence” that Deras inappropriately downloaded extortion photos that had been emailed to him by the McCluskey or that he had electronically transferred those photos to anyone other than the detective assigned to the case.

However, the report did find evidence that a “small number” of officers inappropriately commented on the photos before, during, or immediately after a shift change briefing.

In a prepared statement to the campus community, Chatman said he is “deeply disturbed” by the findings and disappointed in the officers who were present and who did not report this incident through the appropriate channels.

Chatman said the university would be pursuing action against individual officers based on the findings in the report.

In a statement to News Nation affiliate KTVX, Jill McCluskey, Lauren’s mother, describes some of the report’s findings as “especially hurtful.”

“The DPS report shows that Officer Miguel Deras accessed the photo email attachments unnecessarily on his phone multiple times. UU Police Chief Rodney Chatman stated that the report found no evidence that Deras downloaded the picture files, but of course, that is irrelevant to him being able to view them whenever he wanted on his phone. He showed the photos to other officers on at least four occasions, including to the officer in charge after receiving them, at a meeting where he walked around a table with multiple officers showing pictures to each one of them, in a hallway where inappropriate comments were made, and at the scene of Lauren’s murder, which is especially hurtful. Deras’ egregious misconduct in betraying a victim’s trust by displaying private evidence photos to officers who are not involved in the investigation is a crime.”

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