University of Utah officers ‘inappropriately’ commented on McCluskey extortion photos, report finds

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – 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 inmate photos that were used to extort McCluskey before her death.

After the allegations surfaced in 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.

“That won’t be tolerated — I don’t know how else to state that. It’s not tolerated behavior here. It will not be tolerated,” Chatman told ABC4 News. He said three officers will now face disciplinary action or possible termination over the report’s findings.

In a statement to ABC4 News, 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.”

Later on Wednesday, Jill McCluskey and her husband Matt sent another statement calling for new investigation.

“The University of Utah continues to mislead, cover up the facts, and fail to take responsibility for the murder of our daughter. We now call for the University of Utah to redo its incomplete and disingenuous investigation and for an independent review of the facts surrounding Lauren’s murder and the University’s failure to respond to her pleas for help.”

Deras, who quit campus police, now works for the Logan Police Department. His attorney sent out a three-page letter– stating, in part, that the report “does not remotely confirm that anything inappropriate was said or done by Deras.”

The full report from the Utah Department of Public Safety is available online. You can read Chatman’s statement in its entirety here.


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