Did police do enough to protect U of U student who was murdered?

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) – Melvin Rowland was living at a hotel on 300 South street.

His address was public record.

The man police said shot and killed Lauren McCluskey Monday night was a sex offender.  As required by law, Rowland’s address was listed on the Utah Sex Offender Registry.

But it’s unknown if University of Utah police knew that.

McCluskey had gone to police twice this month to file a police report against Rowland.  The two were dating for about a month before she learned he was a convicted molester.  Her mother said Rowland kept his true identity a secret from McCluskey.

Tuesday, Chief Daniel Brophy told reporters they started an investigation but could not find him.

“We don’t have a correct address for him. He was a walk away from Fortitude which is a halfway house and we didn’t have a correct address for him.”

But later Tuesday, a spokesperson for the Utah Department of Corrections said Rowland was never at a halfway house but living at an address listed on the Utah Sex Offender Registry.

The spokesman went even further stating that campus police never notified them about Rowland’s whereabouts.

He is under the supervision of Adult Probation and Parole.

“(Police) did not contact the Utah Department of Corrections prior to October 22, 2018.  Rowland consistently checked in with his agent starting from his release in April 2018,” the statement said. 

It meant his parole officer knew where to find Rowland.

 “There’s always something more than can be done especially for victims of domestic violence, stalking violence,” said Brandon Merrill with Utah Never Again Foundation.

Merrill said police should perform risk assessments into their policy.  He said risk assessments gauge the danger of the situation. 

 “In this case, it probably would have been helpful to use this protocol to determine, yes, she did need ordered protection, Merrill said.

He said more and more police departments are incorporating risk assessments as part of their policy.  But it’s unknown whether the University of Utah police department does that.

The jury is still out whether police failed to investigate Rowland thoroughly.  But even if they didn’t do enough, legally they’re not at fault.

 “Even if they’re negligent, simple negligence or omissions do not create liability for police,” said Robert Sykes, a civil attorney in Salt Lake City.

Late Wednesday, a spokesman for the University of Utah said Chief Brophy will provide more information about the investigation Thursday.

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