On November 2 of last year West Valley City Police Detectives Shaun Cowley and Kevin Salmon were performing a drug investigation at the Lexington Park apartments where they say they saw Danielle Willard involved in what appeared to be a drug deal. The officers then approached her vehicle. Detective Cowley claims while approaching the vehicle from behind that Willard began to reverse into him knocking him down. Cowley says it is at this point, believing that his life was in danger, that he fired several shots killing Willard. But Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill says that the forensic evidence just didn’t corroborate their story. On Thursday, he declared the shooting unjustified.
“I’m not going to speculate what their motivation was," he says. "What I can tell you, based on the forensic information that we have, that the story that is being presented to us is not corroborated because the angles and the trajectories, the forensic evidence, the rotation of the vehicle and the movement of the vehicle, and where the debris was found all indicate that Officer Cowley was not behind the vehicle.”
Gill says his office will now begin a second investigation to determine whether or not they will file criminal charges against the two detectives.
“Now remember, everybody is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty," he says. "The presumption applies there. And we go through a criminal analysis and we start to now look at this as a criminal prosecution matter and start to prepare our case, and screen that, as a criminal investigation.”
Willard’s parents also filed a civil wrongful death suit in federal court in June. Both Cowley and Salmon remain on administrative leave.