Here is a timeline of events leading up to the Oct. 22, 2018, shooting death of University of Utah student-athlete Lauren McCluskey and the weeks afterward, as compiled by campus police, an independent team who reviewed the university’s handling of her case, and additional reporting by The Salt Lake Tribune.
Sept. 2, 2018: Lauren McCluskey met Melvin Shawn Rowland at London Belle, a Salt Lake City bar where he was working as a bouncer, and began a relationship with him. He gave her a false name and age, and didn’t disclose that he was a convicted sex offender on parole. He visited her often at her residence hall and quickly built friendships with other students in the building. Later that month, she went pistol shooting with Rowland and his friends; as a felon, Rowland was not allowed to possess a gun.
Sept. 26: McCluskey called two of her friends and was “very sad;” she said Rowland would not let her “hang out with friends.” The friends felt she didn’t sound right and noticed that week that her physical appearance had begun to change. They believed she was being taken advantage of by Rowland.
Sept. 30: Two of McCluskey’s friends told staff at University of Utah dorms that they were scared about Rowland’s control over her, about how he talked about guns and stayed often in her room. That report, and others to housing officials in days that followed, were not passed to campus police or a campus behavioral team who may have intervened. Housing officials were aware that people who knew McCluskey were specifically concerned that she could be hurt, but their focus remained on whether a housing policy violation was occurring, according to conversations described in the later independent review.
Oct. 9: McCluskey learned Rowland’s real identity — including that he had lied about his age, 37, and not disclosed that he was a registered sex offender — in the first days of October, and briefly went home to Pullman, Wash. On Oct. 9, she invited Rowland to her dorm room, confronted him with the information, and broke off their relationship. He admitted his sex-offender status, but denied the age difference. McCluskey allowed him to spend the night in her room and borrow her car the next day to run errands. She began receiving text messages, purportedly from Rowland’s friends; some urged her to kill herself.
Oct. 10: Jill McCluskey, Lauren’s mother, contacted campus dispatch “very upset and worried” to request a campus security escort to help Lauren retrieve her vehicle from Rowland. The dispatcher contacted Lauren. She at first declined assistance, saying Rowland was going to drop the vehicle at her apartment and she felt comfortable with him doing that. The dispatcher told Lauren she would have security officers near the building just in case. At 5 p.m., Lauren called back, saying the car was dropped off at the Rice-Eccles Stadium parking lot and she needed a ride to pick it up — which a security escort provided. The review team noted that university police did not learn — until after Lauren McCluskey’s death — that she and her mother had felt that Lauren was in danger, because the security escort was not entered into the record management system. The review team said the university should ensure security calls are recorded into a single system coordinated with police.
Oct. 12: Lauren McCluskey contacted university police, reporting she had received suspicious messages she believed were from Rowland’s friends. The texts said Rowland was dead and that it was her fault. But she found he had recently posted on social media, disproving the claim. Such posts were a violation of Rowland’s parole terms, which prohibited him from using social media. Lauren told the reporting officer she did not feel in danger or threatened by the texts, but felt his friends were trying to lure her out of her dorm.
Oct. 13: At 9:22 a.m., McCluskey again contacted university police, reporting she had received more messages she believed were from Rowland or his friends. The messages demanded money in exchange for not posting compromising photos of McCluskey and Rowland online. McCluskey said she sent $1,000 to an account as demanded, in hope of keeping the photos private. She spoke to an officer by phone, then in person, then by texts, and eventually called the Salt Lake City police department, which referred her back to campus. Chief Dale Brophy said police took the report, pulled Rowland’s criminal history — but did not learn he was on parole — and assigned a detective to follow up later on possible charges of sexual extortion. Once police knew of the extortion threat, the hnThe review team police should have found: “There was never an attempt by any of the officers involved to check [Rowland’s] ‘offender status.’ Further, there were no policies or procedures that required such checks.”
Oct. 16: A parole agent spoke with Rowland — but did not know about McCluskey’s allegations because university police had not communicated with Adult Probation and Parole. Rowland’s use of social media violated his probation, and involvement in a new crime also would have been a violation. A spokesman for the Board of Pardons and Parole said on Oct. 25, "if the parole agent has enough information to establish probable cause that the person violated parole, then the agent can request a warrant from the Board. The person would be returned to prison and the Board may revoke parole.”
Oct. 16-19: The campus detective assigned to McCluskey’s case worked on other investigations.
Oct. 19: At 4:48 p.m., a frustrated McCluskey called the Salt Lake City police department to ask for help. “She is very concerned about her case because she has not heard back as to its disposition. She expresses concern that she believes there might be an ‘insider’ within [campus police] because her ex-boyfriend knows all about her contact with the police,” the independent review reported. Salt Lake City’s dispatch tells her to call campus police, which she does. A detective returns her call and says she will not be back at work until Oct. 23 — which will turn out to be the day after McCluskey’s slaying. The detective tells McCluskey to call campus dispatch in the meantime if she gets another message that appears to be an attempt to lure her somewhere. Brophy later said a formal extortion investigation case was opened on Oct. 19, when a detective contacted McCluskey for more information.
Oct. 19-22: Security video shows Rowland at various campus locations, apparently seeking McCluskey. Over the weekend, McCluskey sends three screenshots, presumably to campus police, “showing Rowland’s criminal history and his offender details.”
The day of the shooting
Oct. 22, 10:39 a.m.: McCluskey emailed police that she had received another text from a spoofed number, claiming to be Deputy Chief Rick McLenon, asking her to go to the police station. The “only logical conclusion” was that Rowland sent it with the intent of getting McCluskey to leave her dorm, one of the reviewers said. The reviewers' report said McCluskey was told not to respond to the text, but the fact that she had received the text was not reported to police administrators.
Oct. 22, 3 to 6 p.m.: Rowland waited for McCluskey with some of her friends in the residence hall.
Oct. 22, 8:20 p.m.: Rowland confronted McCluskey in the parking lot outside her residence hall. She was returning from a night class and on the phone with her mother. He grabbed her, and she dropped her cellphone and belongings. He dragged her to a different spot in the lot, forcing her into the back seat of a car he had driven to campus. Once she was in the car, Rowland shot McCluskey multiple times. As a felon, Rowland could not possess a gun; a man who had loaned the gun to him said Rowland claimed he had a girlfriend and wanted to teach her how to shoot.
Oct. 22, 8:23 p.m.: Matt McCluskey, Lauren’s father, called dispatch. He relayed what Jill McCluskey heard on the phone, and asked officers to respond.
Oct. 22, 8:32 p.m.: Police went to the parking lot and found McCluskey’s belongings. More police were mobilized. A search began of her dorm room, the parking lot and the surrounding area.
Oct. 22, 8:38 p.m.: Rowland called a woman he met on a dating site, and asked her to pick him up. They went to dinner at a restaurant, drove by the state Capitol and went to her home downtown, where he took a shower. She then dropped him off at a coffee shop. Later that night, she saw news reports about the shooting, recognized photos of Rowland, and called the police.
Oct. 22: 9:55 p.m.: While searching the parking lot, police found McCluskey’s body in the back seat of a car.
Oct. 22, 9:56 p.m.: A secure-in-place alert was sent campus-wide, telling the university community that there had been a shooting on campus.
Oct. 22, 10:09 p.m.: An alert was sent with suspect information. Updates were sent about every 30 minutes.
Oct. 22, 11:46 p.m.: An alert lifting the secure-in-place order was sent, after University police determined Rowland had left campus.
Oct. 23, 12:01 a.m.: An alert was sent identifying the suspect as Melvin Rowland.
Oct. 23, 12:46 a.m.: Salt Lake City police found Rowland and followed him on foot. He entered Trinity AME Church, at 239 E. Martin Luther King Blvd. (600 South). As police entered the church, Rowland fatally shot himself.
Oct. 23, 1:47 a.m.: An alert was sent saying Rowland had been located and was no longer a threat.
The day after the shooting
Later on Oct. 23 • University Police Chief Dale Brophy told reporters that his officers could not find Rowland in the days before the shooting. He incorrectly said Rowland had walked away from a halfway house (a statement the university later corrected). However, a Department of Corrections spokeswoman said officials knew where Rowland was living. Parole officials said University police did not inform them that McCluskey had accused Rowland of harassing her — which could have led to his questioning by a parole agent, his arrest for a parole violation and if proven, his return to prison.
Oct. 24 • The Department of Corrections revealed that a parole agent had spoken to Rowland on Oct. 16 — unaware that four days earlier, McCluskey had begun calling university police to accuse him of harassing her.
Oct. 25 • In an emotional press conference, Brophy revealed for the first time that Rowland had extorted McCluskey on Oct. 13, threatening to release compromising photos of the two if she didn’t pay $1,000, which she did. Brophy also revealed that Rowland stalked McCluskey on campus for at least three days before killing her, and spent three hours before the shooting hanging out with her friends in her residence hall. Brophy also said Rowland, after shooting McCluskey, called another woman to pick him up, and they went to dinner and back to her place so he could shower. He said that woman and the man who had loaned Rowland the gun contacted police after seeing media reports about the slaying.
University of Utah President Ruth Watkins said she would ask an outside investigator to review university police protocols, but the review would not examine the decisions of individual officers. She had not chosen the investigator.
Gov. Gary Herbert, in his monthly news conference, announced he had ordered an investigation of the Utah Department of Corrections and the Board of Pardons and Parole.
The state’s Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing announced it was investigating “unlicensed activity” by Diamond Security Group, a company that hired Rowland — under the alias Shawn Fields — as a bouncer at Salt Lake City restaurants. It had a security contract with London Belle, where Rowland met McCluskey. FOX13 has reported Rowland had also worked as a bouncer inside Maxwell’s East Coast Eatery. Black Diamond Security Group said on Oct. 25 that it had ended its relationship with Rowland about a month earlier. Within a few hours, DOPL issued a citation and a cease-and-desist order against Black Diamond, saying the company was not licensed to provide security. Rowland had been hired under another name and the company did not run a background check on that name, the Utah Department of Public Safety later found.
More of Rowland’s violent past was uncovered: An attempted sexual assault of a teen girl in 2004, a 2012 parole hearing in which he admitted to raping the teen and two other women, and a 2016 admission that he had threatened that “if an agent were to come conduct a field visit, he might become violent.”
Oct. 26 • University of Utah trustees talked in a hastily arranged closed-door meeting about “the competence” of university police and administrators in the wake of McCluskey’s death.
Oct. 27 • Two women who had briefly dated Rowland earlier this year described to The Salt Lake Tribune his pattern of lies and manipulation — including falsehoods about his age and not disclosing his criminal record.
Oct. 29 • Released police records revealed Rowland was suspected — but never charged — with burglarizing two women he dated in 2015.
Nov. 2 • Watkins changed course, announcing that the independent review she described in a Oct. 25 news conference would look at “actions taken by individual officers” in the week before McCluskey was killed. The team included two former commissioners of the Utah Department of Public Safety: John T. Nielsen, who served in that post from 1985 through 1988 and also is an attorney; and Keith Squires, who retired as commissioner in August. Former University of Wisconsin-Madison Police Chief Sue Riseling was selected as the third member of the team. She is now executive director of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators.
Nov. 13 • Jill McCluskey, Lauren’s mother, wrote in a tweet that “the person who lent Lauren’s killer the gun needs to be prosecuted.” As a parolee, Rowland was prohibited from possessing a gun. But Brophy has said it’s unlikely that the friend will face charges; prosecutors said Utah’s gun laws set a high bar — evidence would have to prove the gun owner intended to aid in the commission of crime by lending the firearm, or that the owner knew it was illegal for a specific borrower to possess a gun.
Dec. 19: The independent review team released its report; the review of Utah Department of Corrections and the Board of Pardons and Parole was also released. Watkins said the report about university police “does not offer any reason to believe” that McCluskey’s slaying could have been prevented. “Instead, the report offers weaknesses, identifies issues and provides us with a road map for strengthening security on our campus,” she said. But Nielsen listed multiple significant missed opportunities, including the reports to housing officials by McCluskey’s friends and the days when the detective assigned to McCluskey’s case was off and the work was not assigned to another officer.
Among its recommendations, the review said the campus Department of Public Safety is understaffed; that it needs to hire a victim advocate; that it needs to develop a coordinated working relationship with existing victim advocates elsewhere on campus; that it needs to train all of its officers about interpersonal violence issues; and it needs to adopt a lethality assessment already used by many other Utah police departments in interpersonal violence cases.
—Tribune reporters Nate Carlisle and Courtney Tanner contributed to this story.