WVC cop at center of Danielle Willard shooting appeals firing in drug case

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WEST VALLEY CITY -- A former police officer at the center of the shooting of Danielle Willard is fighting to keep his job after being fired over accusations of mishandling drug cases.

Former detective Shaun Cowley was fired in September after the West Valley City Police Department disbanded its Neighborhood Narcotics Unit and the Salt Lake County District Attorney declared the shooting of 21-year-old Danielle Willard "unjustified."

Cowley is appealing his firing to West Valley City's Civil Service Commission, which oversees the hiring, discipline and firings of police officers and firefighters.

The West Valley City Council chambers were filled with witnesses. Supporters of Cowley wore orange ribbons, matching the tie he was wearing.

In an exclusive interview with FOX 13 last year, Cowley insisted that he would be cleared.

"When everything’s said and done and all the evidence comes out, I have no doubt I will be exonerated," he told FOX 13.

The hearing began with some fireworks. Lawyers traded barbs over why police officers and administrators who had been subpoenaed to testify had not appeared. WVC PD attorney Martha Stonebrook said former chief Anita Schwimmer and deputy chief Phil Quinlan had scheduling conflicts.

"That's the biggest bunch of baloney I've heard in a long time!" Cowley attorney Keith Stoney told commissioners.

Cowley attorney Lindsay Jarvis noted that many subpoenaed witnesses showed, except WVC police officers and administrators. She noted some officers had already said they would exercise their Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and said they have no "strategically become unavailable."

Stonebrook said officers also have scheduling conflicts, working cases and testifying in court.

She filed a motion for summary judgment, accusing Cowley's lawyers of not providing witness lists and exhibit lists.

"Those are poor excuses for sandbagging the city," Stonebrook said.

Jarvis acknowledged that some discovery is vague, but said she complied with requests.

"Although there is some backhanded comments going on here, we did everything we could to comply," she said.

Jarvis said she would accept a sanction for not being timely, but asked the case not be tossed. The Civil Service Commission met behind closed doors to consider the motions.

After nearly an hour, commissioners returned and asked how long it would take West Valley City to go over the latest information and be ready. Stonebrook said there were 5,000 pages of information and it would be "several days" just to look into it.

She asked to delay the hearing until the end of the month. Jarvis pointed out that much of the discovery provided came from West Valley City itself.

Commissioners again met behind closed doors to talk about whether to delay the hearing or dismiss it entirely, as West Valley City sought.

"We came very close to granting the motion for summary determination," commissioner Bill Leach said after the closed-door deliberations. "But in the end, the commission feels Mr. Cowley deserves his time, this hearing."

Commissioners ordered both sides to be prepared by June or July, when the hearing was expected to resume.

The delay infuriated Willard's mother, Melissa Kennedy, who sat in the chambers surrounded by supporters wearing T-shirts that read "Justice for Danielle Willard."

"This is just messed up!" Kennedy told FOX 13 outside the meeting. "This is just wrong, and of course, here we are, for the third time, we're coming back and having to do this again. It's ridiculous. It's not OK. I'm pissed!"


  • Bob

    The West Valley Police Department has never been on the A-team since their inception. Their early years were marked by a number of federal civil rights lawsuits, and later they went with the photo-cop flop.

    Officer Cowley deserved to get fired.

  • michael

    Well if you give him his job back I will just laugh at him if he tells me what to do he is not a cop in my eyes

  • Max Lozano

    I keep wondering why detective Cowley is not behind bars instead of running loose for his part in the killing of a innocent woman, he does not deserve to be a police officer.

  • Seriously?

    She was slamming heroine inside her vehicle in front of a known white supremacist’s apartment and tried to flee the parking lot when Cowley and another detective approached her vehicle to question her, almost hitting one of them with her vehicle.

    Innocent woman?

    She deserves what she got for purposely endangering the lives of two detectives.

    • shauna waters

      These two officers were trying to get drugs off of the streets. No one deserved to die, but drugs are what put this young girl and the officers in the same place on that fateful day. This war is on drugs, not on officers that have a split second to make critical decisions. This young woman chose drugs. She was in West Valley that day because of drugs. She was unarmed? What about that 3000 lb vehicle. This young woman made poor decisions that day, those decisions got her killed.

      • Trish Ramirez

        Blah blah blah.

        Those cops chose to shoot rather than move.

        They were willing to KILL a young woman over some dope.

        Her life was worth less to them than exerting their authority over her.

        This shooting was investigated and found to be unjustified.

        Danielle didn’t choose to be shot to death by armed thugs with badges – she chose to use drugs. Those thugs chose her death by shooting at her rather than just deescalating the situation by getting out of the way.

        They chose lethal force in a situation where no one had to die, as determined by the DA.

        They murdered a young girl for making poor life choices.

        That is not their place.

      • A dead criminal doesn't waste taxes in prison...

        Trish, why do you defend scum bags so much? Criminals made their choices, they have to live with the consequences. I don’t do drugs, or attack people in court rooms, so I don’t have to worry about these officers (or thugs as you disrespectfully call them).

      • ullh82w8

        How many IDIOTS are on these CROOKED COPS side. They were found CRIMINALLY LIABLE End of story. Only idiots want people like that on the Police Force. These losers give great cops a bad name. I hope they prosecute those losers for the MURDER they committed. FOUND LIABLE, end of story!

      • Trish Ramirez

        @ a dead criminal doesn’t waste taxes in prison – I ‘waste my time’ defending these PEOPLE because they are human beings. No one is perfect. Everyone makes bad choices. Not everyone has the same upbringing, educational opportunities, support system, self-esteem.

        Some people start out in really bad situations and have to work really hard to make something of themselves.

        They are still people, citizens, human beings with inalienable rights.

        The system that so many people blindly support is only designed to benefit those who start out at the top.

        The ones that have to crawl their way up from the bottom have to fight against a system designed to keep them in their place.

        If you ever thought about walking in another person’s shoes for a minute, you may realize that EVERYONE deserves the same rights and considerations under our Constitution – not just the privileged few who get a good start in life with all of the benefits and perks inherent in a traditional, first-world upbringing.

    • Trish Ramirez

      Are you insane? Slamming heroin is not a capital offense and cops are not judges, juries and executioners.

      American citizens, even drug addicts, are entitled to due process under the Constitution.

      Danielle was murdered by trigger happy cops, plain and simple.

      The shooting was determined to be unjustified.

      Sure, she made bad choices.

      However, cops are supposed to protect and serve, not shoot unarmed citizens.

      Even if those citizens are breaking the law.

      Cops don’t get to shoot and kill American citizens at their own discretion, even if those American citizens are breaking the law.

      Cops aren’t supposed to be meting out punishment to citizens of this nation.

      They can cite people and order them appear before a judge, but they are in no way legally empowered to sentence a citizen to death at their own ignorant discretion.

      • Armed

        She would be alive if she would have listened to the cops… If someone tried to run me over, I would shoot too, especially if they were high on drugs… I do not understand why you defend criminals so much…

      • never the whole story

        You forget to realize a car is a weapon. She was not unarmed. And were you there? How do you know she was not trying to use the vehicle to run them over? Had you been in that situation, what would you have thought she was doing? You probably would have taken a minute to talk with her, make friends, and really understand where she is coming from. That is nice, and ideal, but generally, not realistic.

        You must realize, there is usually less than two or three seconds to assess the situation and react to it. Until you have been there, stop talking like you have any idea. How can you criticize these officers when you don’t even know all the facts of the case? You know what you have seen in the media and in case you didn’t already know, is NEVER THE WHOLE STORY.

    • mken40

      To all of you siding with these cops. Where do you get your informaiton. First of all the first shot was the fatel shot. How can you use a vehicle as a weapon if you are already dead. Next these guys lied about just about everything except the fact that they were there. If and I do seriously mean if she was doing drugs that is not a death sentence. There was no herion in her body. How on earth can you side with someone that shoots to kill without a reason. You put a gun in my face you better believe I will get the heck out of there right away. You say you did not know her. Then when you are in streeet clothes and you point a weapon at me I don’t care where you are I will be out of there as fast as I can. But somehow I don’t think that is the way it went down. I believe there is a lot more to this story and I believe that no one is willing to come forward with the truth. Therefore, we have the scientific evidence to show us what happened. If you have a problem with that maybe you should come forward and tell us the real truth. From what I have heard only the two cops were there, oh yea there was this girl in her car with no weapon that was killed. I dont suppose she is talking now. How lucky for you.
      By the way even if she was doing drugs who are you to decide what her sentence should be. you are a cop that follows directions from your superior and in this case the superior was doing the same as all the rest of you. Lieing, steeling, killing, and there had to be some reason why 124 cases were thrown out.

  • one tired of high taxes

    This case of the girl getting murdered is a prime example of the WVC police department being out of control. The angles of the shots fired proved that the cops were not in direct danger of being hit by the car. And the shooting was not justified. That 3000 lb vehicle was not being used as a weapon but as a means to get away. This cop was fired for proper reasons. He does not deserve his job back but does deserve murder charges against him and other officers involved in the shooting. He also deserves charges against him for all the civil rights he violated with the mishandling of other cases. Law enforcement should be held to the highest of standards.

    • A dead criminal doesn't waste taxes in prison...

      If you are tired of paying high taxes, then you should thank these cops. Now that druggie isn’t wasting tax money in prison…

    • never the whole story

      Where did you get your data on this exactly? Because what I saw on television was a still, non-mobile vehicle which would not accurately portray the situation, only support the anti-law enforcement DA’s position.

  • Bob

    In a life and death situation people like Johnny Swallows and Trish Ramirez will be the first on the phone begging the 911 operator to get the police to hurry.;

  • michael

    Wow all you people siding with the cops must be scared people that need cops. To keep you safe and I’m glad I don’t pay taxes cuz it’s all about money with you ppl

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