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Rebecca Griego is killed on the University of Washington campus on April 2, 2007.

HistoryLink.org Essay 10236 : Printer-Friendly Format

On the morning of Monday, April 2, 2007, the deranged ex-boyfriend of University of Washington employee Rebecca Jane Griego (1981-2007) kills her at the UW’s Gould Hall before fatally shooting himself. Griego, a Colorado native who had been working at the UW since her undergraduate graduation in 2004, had warned colleagues about her attacker and had petitioned for a protection order in King County Superior Court. But Jonathan Rowan (1966-2007) -- who had a warrant for an ongoing drunken driving case, who was wanted for questioning in a Seattle theft investigation, and who for years had eluded immigration officials with an expired 90-day visa -- could not be located before the shooting. 

The murder-suicide, the first on UW’s campus since June 28, 2000, led to a change in state law regarding how protection orders are served, a scholarship in Griego’s memory, and a crime victim’s advocate position within the University of Washington police.

Shooting in Gould Hall

About 9:25 a.m., Jonathan Rowan climbed the stairs to the fourth floor of Gould Hall carrying a bag and a six-shot revolver. He stopped at room 442, where Griego was working as program coordinator for the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies. It’s not known what he said, if anything, before shooting her to death and then turning the gun on himself.

The first two medic units were dispatched at 9:27 a.m. Other units were dispatched two minutes later, and the last medic unit was sent at 9:31. But both Griego, 26, and Rowan, 41, died at the scene.

The restraining order Griego and co-workers planned to give Rowan if he returned to the UW building was on Griego’s desk.

Hundreds of students were in Gould Hall classrooms when the shooting took place, though no one saw the fatal shots being fired. Many teachers and students were unaware that the sounds they heard were gunshots and classes continued until police evacuated the building minutes after the fatal shots. Reporters arrived about 9:40 a.m., just as some of the students realized two people were dead upstairs.

Adriana Johnson was trying to park behind Gould Hall when a friend called and told her not to enter the building because there had been a shooting. She told reporters she immediately thought of Griego, her coworker. “She did everything she could to put him away, meaning that she went to the police,” said Johnson, who worked in the real estate center (The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, April 3, 2007).

Griego, a Colorado native who started UW undergraduate studies in fall 2002, began dating Rowan in winter 2000. A former roommate of Rowan and Griego told the Post-Intelligencer that the couple had met when Griego worked at a Seattle restaurant. Court documents Griego filed for protection showed the romantic relationship ended in 2004, the same year she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts with an Economics major, though others said the two later lived together.

Griego became involved with the UW’s College of Architecture and Urban Planning through a real estate seminar taught by Professor Jim DeLisle, who recognized her talent and recruited her to coordinate the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies. Griego first worked as a student assistant, then as a full-time member of the professional staff, maintaining budgets, conducting research, and advising students. Lance Nguyen, a graduate student who worked with her, described her as “the backbone of the whole real estate center” (Post-Intelligencer, April 3, 2007).

Not a Stable Character

A birth certificate with a seal of England shows that Rowan was born on March 13, 1966, in the county of Leicester. It lists him as the son of a welder -- not the son of a wealthy hotel owner as he often claimed. After the fatal shooting, an immigration official told the Post-Intelligencer that agents had learned from two tips prior to 2003 that he was here illegally. But they could not locate him.

Rowan was a man of many stories, including that he had angered the Irish Republican Army and had been a professional ice skater, though background checks showed that those were bogus. He entered the United States through Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport in March 1996 with a visa waiver he obtained as a British citizen. But he remained in the country illegally after that 90-day visa expired, at times concealing his identity and moving frequently.

Rowan used three aliases and two passports under different names. The six-shooter he used to kill Griego and himself was stolen from a Seattle man who didn’t know it was stolen until contacted by police.

Griego had been working at the University of Washington for about three years, and court documents show she and Rowan lived together after the 2004 split. But the following year, Rowan shoved her and slammed her ankle against a door, according to her petition for protection, filed in King County Superior Court.

On January 5, 2007, Rowan was drunk and verbally abusive. He threw glass candlesticks at Griego, tackled her, and punched her, according to the petition. Griego wrote that she forgave Rowan because he was drunk, through he later threatened to hurt her again. She didn’t call police the day of the January assault, but moved out with her dog, Zoe, and didn’t tell Rowan where she was going.

Rowan had a warrant for his arrest the day he fatally shot Griego. It had been issued on January 8, 2007, after he failed to appear at his January 5 sentencing for a drunken driving conviction. He had been stopped by Seattle police the previous June 30, but officers, who were prohibited by law from asking if he was in the country illegally without a reasonable suspicion, did not know he was wanted by immigration authorities. Rowan was carrying a European identification card and a Washington State identification card, and told officers he hadn’t obtained a Washington’s driver’s license.

A young woman who lived in Ballard with Griego and Rowan, Kelley Ballentine, said when Rowan moved out the March 5 before the shooting, he took her digital camera and computer. When she reported the theft to police, she also told them about his fake passport and that she “knew about his coke habit,” and sales of the drug in Seattle (Post-Intelligencer, April 4, 2007). She said Rowan, who tried to charm people with his accent, drank Scotch daily, and once was so careless with cocaine he left a plate with lines of the drug in the microwave.

On the Valentine’s Day before the shootings, Ballentine found a note on the yellow kitchen counter of the Ballard house. “I need you to call my friend give him these numbers for Rebecca,” the note from Rowan read (Post-Intelligencer, April 4, 2007). Below his keyboard were suicide notes for Griego, her sister, and Rowan’s friend. He had threatened to jump off the Aurora Bridge, but never did.

Until March 2007, Rowan had lived at the Fairwinds Development in Ballard. A neighbor told the Post-Intelligencer that Rowan was a strange, silent man who wore sunglasses no matter the occasion. He often stayed in the house, building websites and selling used cars online for money.

Griego said in court documents that Rowan left several “last word” messages, but she never called him back. On March 6, 2007, he called Griego at the University of Washington threatening to hurt her and her dog and told her to “look over her shoulder” (Post-Intelligencer, April 3, 2007). He also made threats to Griego’s sister, and that day both women filed petitions for protection orders, in which Rebecca Griego described the abuse and threats. When Rowan couldn’t be found, it was reissued by the courts on March 20.

The day after she filed the petition for protection, Griego sent an email to co-workers with two pictures of Rowan, listing his name as Jonathan Ghulam-Nabi Rowan. “I’m having a serious stalker issue right now and the only place the person knows to find me is at my sister’s home or the office in Gould,” she wrote. “He should not be considered dangerous to any of you, just me and my family” (Post-Intelligencer, April 3, 2007).

She reported that he called her UW office on March 7 and again on 14 and made threats to kill her, but she didn’t want to press charges. About six weeks before the shooting she moved to a basement apartment near Roosevelt High School and told few people where it was. “She did everything a person can do,” UW Assistant Police Chief Ray Wittmier said the day after the shootings (Post-Intelligencer, April 4, 2007). 

Missteps and Corrections

A review after the shootings showed Griego’s supervisors didn’t contact a school human resources consultant as required in cases involving violent incidents or threats. School policy states that a supervisor must speak in person to a consultant who could develop a safety plan with the university’s workplace violence-prevention assessment team.

That team was created in summer 2000 shortly after a pathology resident, Dr. Jian Chen (1958-2000), killed his mentor, world-renowned gastrointestinal pathologist Dr. Rodger Haggitt (1942-2000), in another murder-suicide on the UW campus. The men had been meeting in Dr. Haggitt’s office before Dr. Chen opened fire on the afternoon of June 28, 2000. Dr. Chen was upset that his contract for the 2001 academic year would not be renewed, and had been encouraged to seek a training program that would be a better fit for him. Dr. Chen had expressed demonstrated anxiety about his future and did not make threats to anyone, though co-workers were concerned about their safety.

“What they would have done is go down sort of a checklist and examine her working environment and see if they could perhaps make it more secure from an intruder,” UW spokesman Norm Arkans told the Post-Intelligencer the week Griego was killed. “But the Human Resources Department was unaware of this situation, basically”  (Post-Intelligencer, April 6, 2007). The university requires that supervisors be informed about the steps human resources can take to prevent domestic violence.

UW police also did not serve the protection order filed by Griego, and it had been placed in an inactive file. Arkans and others defended Griego’s colleagues, saying, “they were doing the best they thought they could do to help this very valued colleague” (Post-Intelligencer, April 6, 2007). Later that year, the State Department of Labor and Industries issued the University of Washington a $2,100 fine, saying employees at the College of Architecture and Urban Planning were put in danger due to the university's failure to follow its own workplace safety rules.

Griego's Family Acts

After Griego’s death, her sister, Rachel, and mother, Diane Perry, helped get a bill passed in the Washington State Legislature, to allow suspected abusers to be served with legal papers by mail or publication after two reasonable attempts had been made to serve them in person. Before the bill, the subject had to be served in person or the protection order would be invalid.

“We felt that we didn’t have an option exept to find him ourselves, and that’s a very scary, daunting time to be in,” Rachel Griego told the State House Judiciary Committee (KOMO, February 20, 2008).

The law Rachel Griego and her mother advocated for, section 26.50.050 of the Revised Code of Washington, is known as the Rebecca Jane Griego Act.

University of Washington Police also hired a crime victim advocate, who works with harassment victims to help handle the criminal justice process. The College of Architecture and Urban Planning also established the Rebecca J. Griego Memorial Scholarship for students in the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies.

A memorial service for Rebecca Griego was held April 30, 2007, at the UW’s Kane Hall. Among the roughly 250 attendees were Griego’s brother and sister, parents, and other family members. Jim DeLisle, director of the Runstad Center, showed a book in which students had written their thoughts about Griego and recalled how her father described his daughter’s effect on others: "Those who knew her were smitten by her" (The Seattle Times, May 1, 2007).

Statement of family of Rebecca Griego and UW President Mark Emmert, April 5, 2007

"Two families lost a dearly beloved member this week -- the family and friends of Rebecca Griego, and our University family, of which Rebecca was a cherished member. Much attention has been focused on the terrible event that occurred earlier this week in an effort to understand what happened. It is important to do so, but it is also important not to lose sight of Rebecca and the gifts she brought to all who knew her.

"Rebecca's family would like to express their heartfelt thanks to everyone who loved and supported her and to everyone who has supported them during this very difficult time. 'Rebecca was an amazing woman whose grace, elegance, strength and compassion will be greatly missed," said the family. "We wish for her to be remembered for the person she was, not for the tragedy that took her from us. However, this tragedy has brought to everyone's attention the struggle too many in our community face. We fervently hope that others in similar situations can find the help they need to protect themselves, and that Rebecca's story can be a catalyst for positive action.'

"Rebecca was a graduate of the University of Washington, a talented and dedicated member of our staff of the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies, and a mentor and friend to many. She was deeply committed to students and worked hard to mentor and nurture them. She developed learning materials and prepared tutorials for them, always working to enhance their learning experience. Her contributions to the research program in the Center were sophisticated and reflected the rigorous standards she set for herself. She was the glue that held so many aspects of the Center's programs together, the epicenter of much of the activity that has made the Center a true academic home for its students.

"'Though I did not have the privilege of knowing Rebecca,' said UW President Mark Emmert, 'the picture that emerges of her is of a brilliant, energetic, vital force helping our students accomplish their educational objectives. She was an exemplar of the best we can offer in guidance and assistance as our students navigate their way towards their careers. Her loss is deeply felt by all who knew her and all whose lives she touched and improved. It is a great loss for the University community, and we are partners in grief with her family.'"

Sources:
Christine Frey, Hector Castro, and Casey McNerthney, “Stalker Finds Victim at UW, Kills Her,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, April 3, 2007, p. A-1; Christine Frye and Casey McNerthney, “Killer Eluded Police with Fake Names, Frequent Moves,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, April 4, 2007, p. A-1; Casey McNerthney, “UW Killer Had Been Living in the U.S. Illegally Since 1996,” April 5, 2007, p. B-2; Casey McNerthney and Hector Castro, “Safety Policy Failed Griego,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, April 6, 2007, p. B-1; Memorial program for Rebecca Griego, April 30, 2007; Nick Perry, “Griego's Friends, Family Recall her as Caring, Giving,” The Seattle Times, May 1, 2007, The Seattle Times website accessed July 7, 2012 (http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/); Amy Rolph, “State Agency Fines UW $2,100 After Fatal Campus Shooting,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, October 5, 2007. Seattlepi.com website accessed July 7, 2012 (http://www.seattlepi.com/local/article/State-agency-fines-UW-2-100-after-fatal-campus-1251706.php); Keith Eldridge, “Victim's Family Pushing Rebecca Griego Bill,” KOMO-TV, February 20, 2008; “UW Students Remember Rebecca Griego,” The Daily, April 2, 2008, Daily website accessed July 7, 2012 (http://dailyuw.com/news/2008/apr/02/uw-students-remember-rebecca-griego/); Hector Castro, “Civil rights Lawsuit Filed Against UW Police,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, October 11, 2008. Seattlepi.com website accessed July 7, 2012 (http://www.seattlepi.com/local/article/Civil-rights-lawsuit-filed-against-UW-Police-1287999.php); Paul Ramsey, M.D., “Message from Dean Ramsey,” UW School of Medicine, June 30, 2000, UW School of Medicine website accessed July 7, 2012 (http://depts.washington.edu/mednews/dean/06.30.00.html); Rebecca Jane Griego Act, 2008 Wash. Laws, Ch. 287; Seattle Fire Department dispatch log, April 2, 2007, website accessed July 7, 2012 (http://www2.seattle.gov/fire/realTime911/getRecsForDatePub.asp?incDate=04%2F02%2F2007&rad1=des).


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Rebecca Jane Griego (1981-2007)
Courtesy Griego family, Memorial Program


Jonathan Rowan (1966-2007), photo sent by Rebecca Griego to co-workers identifying her stalker
Courtesy Seattle Post-Intelligencer


Gould Hall, University of Washington campus, Seattle, 2000
Courtesy University of Washington


 
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