Lindsay Jarvis, Shaun Cowley’s attorney, showed ABC 4 pictures of Officer Cowley minutes after he fatally shot and Danielle Willard. She says the pain on his face, and the marks on his pants, clearly show he was hit by Willard’s car.
"To say that my client was brushed by the vehicle is an absolute misstatement of the evidence,” said Jarvis.
Jarvis says Officer Cowley feared for his life and both he and his partner opened fire because that's what they're taught to do.
"I believe that he turned around, he saw a vehicle coming at him and he instinctively, in accordance with his training, fired his weapon which was two shots, which is what they call a double tap,” explained Jarvis. “At that point in time Kevin Salmon, he could no longer see my client, he was concerned he had been sucked under the vehicle and he fired his rounds as well."
The District Attorney's office says based on the evidence, which shows Cowley fired shots at the side of the vehicle, Cowley was no longer in danger but his attorney says that couldn't be further from the truth.
Jarvis said, "You've got Shaun Cowley who turns around and sees a vehicle coming towards him and by the time he was able to retrieve his weapon and fire a shot that vehicle was moved."
The Utah Fraternal Order of Police, which is representing Officer Kevin Salmon, says the DA's office failed to follow the scientific research of Force Science - the principles and processes used to determine how humans react in deadly force encounters.
Bret Rawson, Kevin Salmon’s attorney told ABC 4 Utah, "Some of those things need to be understood by the people doing the review. In this instance I don't believe that happened."
Rawson now fears what this decision will mean for future use of force cases and the safety of other officers.
"Use of force happens in a millisecond. If officers hesitate, sooner or later, I hate to say this, but sooner or later this is going to get an officer killed,” said Rawson.
Both Detective Shaun Cowley and Detective Kevin Salmon are still under internal review, and even though the District Attorney found their actions unjustified it's still possible the police department’s findings will differ.
West Valley City Police Dept. Chief Mike Powell said, "We have to determine whether or not they adhered to or followed policy or if there were violations of policy."
Powell wouldn't say if the department’s use of deadly force policy will change because of this ruling only that they're constantly reviewing best practices.
"Laws change, best practices change and we are very open and very willing to continue to review our policies and procedures and to make a determination on whether or not we need to make changes,” said Powell.
Danielle Willard's family wants to see change. Her mother thinks the ruling is just the beginning.
Melissa Kennedy released this statement Thursday, "On behalf of Danielle’s family we appreciate District Attorney Sim Gill's investigative findings that Danielle’s killing was not justified. The findings confirm what we have always known - Danielle was murdered.”