EXCLUSIVE: Victim’s mom speaks after officer-involved shooting

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah — The mother of a young woman killed in an officer-involved shooting has come to Utah for answers.   

“I feel deep down something went terribly wrong,” says Melissa Kennedy, mother of 21-year-old Danielle Willard.

West Valley Police allegedly shot and killed Willard last Friday while working an investigation at the Lexington Park apartments near 2200 West and 3700 South.

Kennedy believes police were trying to make contact with someone besides her daughter.  Willard’s body was found on the passenger side of her Subaru which was butted up against an SUV in the complex’s parking lot. Two plain clothes detectives were involved in the incident. Neither one was shot but one of them was injured.

“From what I’ve heard from the maintenance man who called 9-1-1 and the people she worked with at Texaco, there’s no way she was the target,” says Kennedy

FOX 13 reporter Gene Kennedy asked Kennedy, “Is it possible your daughter panicked in the car, hit the gas, then hit the officer?”

“No, I was told she wasn’t driving and didn’t have a gun,” says Kennedy.

“The only thing they’ve [West Valley Police] shared is there was no gun on her person.  Whether there was one in the vehicle we don’t know. We know the vehicle was in motion at some point and according to a witness, she was a passenger.”

Kennedy added, “I don’t believe there’s a whole lot of people involved. I was told by the maintenance man that there was possibly another individual who was driving the car and the maintenance man said once they stopped he ran off.”

FOX 13 was unable to reach that maintenance man Monday night and West Valley Police aren’t answering questions until they wrap up their open investigation.

“I don’t want to show police in a bad light, I truly don’t,” says Kennedy. “I want them to be able to do their investigation and tell us what happened.”

Danielle Willard grew up in Vancouver, Wash. and went to several rehabilitation facilities to free herself of a heroin addition. She came to Utah for the same reason.

“The only people she knew here were previous drug addicts,” says Kennedy.

Willard’s roommate told FOX 13 Willard recently relapsed on heroin and was staying with friends at the Lexington Park apartments.

“She was with someone bad and I don’t think she realized how bad they were,” says Kennedy.

However, Kennedy can’t help but wonder if West Valley Police took the appropriate action.  Nearly a week after the shooting, police have not provided the community with any probable cause to justify deadly force.

“As far as the undercover cops go, I have a lot of questions as to what they were thinking when they pulled their guns, why they did, and who took the first shot and why,” Kennedy says.

“My baby is not here anymore. I’ll never hold her. I’ll never touch, I’ll never see her smile.”

Kennedy will be staying in Utah until Wednesday, then return to her hometown, Vancouver, Wash. where her daughter’s funeral will be on Saturday.

Meanwhile, FOX 13 has filed a records request with West Valley Police to disclose all police reports and paperwork connected to this investigation. We’ve also requested 9-1-1 calls and our requests, for now, have been denied.


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