Nine months after West Valley police shot and killed Danielle Willard, we now have an official decision whether officers should have done it.
"It is the conclusion of the Salt Lake County D.A.'s Office that the shooting that resulted in the death of Danielle Willard on Nov. 2nd, 2012 by Det. Salmon and Shaun Cowley was not justified," said Sim Gill, Salt Lake County District Attorney.
Last year police shot and killed Willard while she was parked in the Lexington Park Apartments parking lot near 2200 west and 3700 south in West Valley City. Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill concludes the evidence from the shooting and the detectives’ stories don't match up.
"This actually shows the trajectories of the bullets extend into it," said Gill.
Gill said according to statements from both Detective Kevin Salmon and Detective Cowley, they claim Willard tried to run over Cowley with her car.
Cowley said quote: "I heard the tires screech on (Willard's) car. Her car was coming towards me at what I felt was an extremely high rate of speed,” Cowley said in a statement.
Cowley claims his life was in danger so he shot Willard.
"I had my gun in my hand and I fired a round at her ... As I was being hit and I fired a second round, right as I was hitting the ground or on my way to the ground," Cowley said.
But according to Gill, forensic evidence doesn't support that theory.
"The angle of the shots fired by Det. Cowley place him on the side of the vehicle," demonstrated Gill.
Based on this information combined with other interviews and reports, Gill concludes the shooting should've never happened. Attorneys for the detectives are stunned.
"Very disappointing quite frankly," said Lindsay Jarvis, Attorney for Shaun Cowley.
"We believe that Mr. Gill has misperceived the science associated with use of force," said Bret Rawson, Attorney for Kevin Salmon.
Attorney for Detective Cowley, Lindsay Jarvis claims if you take a second look at the evidence it supports the detectives' stories.
"Shaun Cowley who turns around and sees a vehicle coming at him by the time he's able to retrieve his weapon and fire a shot that vehicle has moved so it becomes on the side of him," said Jarvis.
When you ask West Valley City what they think of Thursday's finding they said it's been a difficult process. They plan to cooperate with the D.A.'s office.
"Those officers continue to be on administrative leave at this point," said Mike Powell, Deputy Chief, West Valley City Police Dept.
Right now there's no additional action being taken against Det. Cowley or Salmon. But that could change. Next, the District Attorney plans to investigate if either man committed a crime. He's yet to determine if the detectives will face charges.
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