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Former Drug Cop Charged in Danielle Willard Shooting

Whittney Evans

A former West Valley City police officer who shot and killed 21-year-old Danielle Willard in a 2012 drug bust is facing criminal charges. The Salt Lake County District Attorney’s office filed the charges this morning in 3rd District Court.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill has charged former West Valley City narcotics detective Shaun Cowley with 2nd degree manslaughter. Gill opted not to file charges against detective Kevin Salmon who also fired his weapon at the scene. Cowley fired the first and fatal shot.  

Earlier this year Gill responded to complaints that the decision was taking too long, citing legal issues as a factor in the delay. But he told reporters, nothing about the investigation has been ordinary. 

“From its inception and the initial shooting review that was done, it was a drawn out process and that took some time,” Gill says. “Subsequent to that, we made a commitment to make sure we were diligent, we were thorough and we were careful in our review.”

The team responsible for investigating Cowley’s case included detectives from from West Valley City, Salt Lake City, Unified Police and the District Attorney’s Office.

West Valley City Police Chief Lee Russo told reporters Thursday afternoon  the shooting could result in changes in training and policy in the department.

Cowley, who was booked Thursday afternoon faces 1 to 15 years in state prison. Gil says bail is set at $25,000.

Salmon is currently on paid leave. 

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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