Parents File Second Lawsuit Over University of Utah Student’s Shooting Death

By Sophia Eppolito, Associated Press/Report for America | June 11, 2020

The parents of a University of Utah student who was shot and killed on campus in 2018 has filed another lawsuit against the school

In the lawsuit, Jill and Matt McCluskey allege the university violated the state constitution by dismissing their daughter’s requests for help in the weeks leading up to her death.

Track athlete Lauren McCluskey, 21, had contacted university police more than 20 times to report harassment by her ex-boyfriend, Melvin Rowland, 37, before he fatally shot her outside her dorm. She had broken up with him after finding out he lied about his background and status as a sex offender.

McCluskey’s parents say that university police ignored their daughter because of an “indifference to the risks that women experience when they are suffering from domestic violence,” according to the lawsuit.

The University of Utah declined to comment on the family’s most recent suit until its attorneys could review and respond to the new filing. The university has acknowledged mistakes and made campus safety changes, and said that its staff “deeply regret not better understanding the danger Lauren faced.”

The suit names several state and university employees as defendants, including Officer Miguel Deras who has been accused of showing off explicit images of Lauren McCluskey while investigating an extortion case she filed before her death. Deras has denied the allegations.

Jill and Matt McCluskey filed a separate lawsuit against the school in June 2019 for federal law violations and civil rights violations under Title IX. In that case, the university did not reach a settlement with the parents after two days of mediation.

Both lawsuits are expected to proceed simultaneously. The parents have said any proceeds from the $54 million federal lawsuit will be used to promote campus safety.

Eppolito is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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