A University of Utah police officer showed off explicit photos of a young student to at least three of his colleagues, telling them he could "look at them whenever he wanted" after the 21-year-old student told police someone was trying to extort her with the same pictures, a report into the officers' conduct released Wednesday found.
One officer chimed in, saying, "she's cute," while another told the officer who was showing the pictures after a shift change briefing, "Lucky you got that case."
Days later, Lauren McCluskey was shot and killed in a campus parking lot by her ex-boyfriend, who authorities said lied to the 21-year-old about his age and that he was a registered sex offender, and then used the images to threaten her.
A monthslong investigation into the incident was launched after the Salt Lake Tribune reported an officer showed the pictures to coworkers.
The official report, published Wednesday, found that Officer Miguel Deras inappropriately showed colleagues the explicit images and that the officers "inappropriately commented on the photos."
"I am deeply disturbed by this finding and disappointed in the officers who were present and who did not report this incident through appropriate university channels," said Rodney Chatman, chief of police for the University of Utah's Department of Public Safety. "It is inexcusable for any law enforcement officer to discuss photos or information provided by a victim outside of clear and legitimate law enforcement reasons."
Chatman did not disclose if any of the officers would be disciplined, citing confidentiality reasons, but said the department was "pursuing action against individual officers based on the findings in this report."
Deras, however, quit the department on Sept. 16, 2019, and is now working with the Logan City Police Department.
The report found there was no evidence Deras had downloaded the images to his phone, but the officer is believed to have accessed the images through his work email on his phone.
McCluskey was killed in October 2018; she was shot inside a parked car at the University of Utah after she had received suspicious messages threatening to post compromising photos on the web.
The 21-year-old had just recently broken up with Melvin Rowland, who was found dead from an apparent suicide just hours after McCluskey's body was found.
At the time of McCluskey's death, school police said they had been investigating emails and text messages she had received, threatening her "financially and reputationally" — but Dale Brophy, then the police chief of the University of Utah, said they had "no indication from Lauren to us at any point in this investigation that he was threatening physical harm."
McCluskey had reported the threats to police three days after they had broken up.
Her death prompted a review of how the university mishandled the case and led to a $65 million lawsuit filed by her parents.
Authorities said Rowland confronted McCluskey in the parking lot of the university while she was on the phone with her mother, dragged her into another car in the lot, and shot her multiple times.
The 37-year-old then called another woman he had met via a dating app just days before, police said, had her pick him up from the school, and had dinner. He died of an apparent suicide before police took him into custody.
The report over Deras's actions found that the officer continued to share images of McCluskey after her death.
As officers responded to the crime scene, where McCluskey's body was still inside the car, a sergeant said to Deras, "I wonder what she looked like."
One of the officers said Deras grabbed his phone and showed the sergeant a sexually explicit picture of McCluskey.