Two UW departments failed to report stalker threats
Seattle Times staff reporter
University Police and the College of Architecture failed to follow well-established procedures by not reporting Rebecca Griego's pleas for help to a high-level safety team that could have taken steps to protect her, a top University of Washington official acknowledged Wednesday.
Mindy Kornberg, vice president of human resources at the university, said her department should have been notified that Griego had received death threats from her ex-boyfriend at her office in Gould Hall. She said the HR department also didn't know Griego had filed a report — including a copy of a domestic-violence protection order — with University Police.
On Monday morning, Jonathan Rowan shot Griego to death in a university building before killing himself.
Had HR been notified of Rowan's threats, the workplace violence-prevention assessment team would have met, talked to Griego and developed a plan to reduce the short- and long-term risk to her safety, Kornberg said. She ticked off possibilities such as changing Griego's phone number, moving her to a different building or stepping up police patrols near her workplace.
"Our hearts truly go out to the family and this is a horrible tragedy, and we really are looking to learn from this," Kornberg said. "We hope this never happens again."
Why neither the police nor the College of Architecture & Urban Planning followed procedures isn't clear, she said. Human-resources staff have yet to meet with Police Chief Vicky Stormo or Griego's supervisor, real-estate professor James DeLisle, who didn't respond to requests for comment left at his office by The Seattle Times.
Assistant UW Police Chief Ray Wittmier said Wednesday he didn't know why his staff didn't bring Griego's report of death threats to the attention of human resources or Sgt. David Girts, its representative on the violence-prevention team.
"We don't have any more information on that," Wittmier said. One positive thing that may result from the tragedy, he said, "would be that more people attend workplace-violence prevention training so they have a better idea of what to do when situations like this come up."
Wittmier's department often leads the training of university supervisors and administrators in recognizing warning signs of workplace violence. All police department employees are supposed to receive orientation in the reporting procedures, Kornberg said.
Last August, Griego and co-worker Adriana Johnson were rearranging furniture in the office for aesthetic reasons, Johnson said. Even then, Griego told Johnson she wanted the cubicle farthest from the door so her ex-boyfriend couldn't see her from the door if he showed up.
Johnson said she's sure DeLisle did everything he knew to protect Griego, even sending his son, a UW student, to stay in the office with Griego during a school break so that she wasn't alone in the office.
"He took care of her like a daughter," Johnson said. "I couldn't blame him. It was just madness."
Police say Rowan fatally shot Griego, then himself, with a revolver he had stolen from an acquaintance. The owner wasn't aware the gun was missing until approached by police after the shooting, Wittmier said.
Federal immigration authorities said Thursday that Rowan was living in the United States illegally — the British citizen overstayed a 90-day visa granted him to enter the country in 1996 — and that they had been seeking him for more than three years.
Lorie Dankers, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), said the agency mounted a full-scale investigation and tracked him to Seattle, where a judge several years ago issued an administrative immigration warrant to arrest and deport him.
"The fact he wasn't located is consistent with the lifestyle we're hearing about him," Dankers said.
In an e-mail March 7, Griego alerted co-workers and her supervisor, DeLisle, that she had a "stalking issue" and gave them photos of Rowan in case he showed up at the office. On March 16, Griego told University Police she was willing to testify against Rowan if they could arrest him. Rowan hadn't been served with the protection order, which barred him from any contact with Griego.
Neither a University Police detective nor a Seattle Police Department domestic-violence unit could find and serve Rowan, who eluded them by moving frequently and calling Griego from pay phones.
Regardless, University Police were required by workplace-violence procedures to alert HR of the threats to Griego, Kornberg said, so the university could try to protect her.
The university created the workplace violence-prevention assessment team in response to a murder-suicide in 2000.
The team, which has a standing meeting each week, can mobilize immediately and has the power to make changes fast. It's composed of representatives from the police department, human resources, the Attorney General's Office, the employee-assistance program and a dean or the head of the department where the employee in need of help works, Kornberg said.
In the years since the shooting in 2000, the prevention program grew more robust, with a universitywide coordinator, a case-tracking system, a checklist for supervisors unsure of what threatening behavior looks like and an online-reporting system to make it easier for supervisors to report threatening behavior in the workplace.
Dornie MacKenzie, higher-education director for Local 925 of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which represents administrative and clerical staff, said she has considered the university's workplace violence-prevention approach "pretty strong."
"I think the University is pretty vigilant about this stuff," MacKenzie said.
Staff reporter Jennifer Sullivan contributed to this report.
Sanjay Bhatt: 206-464-3103 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Information in this article, originally published March 5, was corrected March 5. An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to the architecture college as the "architecture department." Its full name is the College of Architecture & Urban Planning.
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