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Utah Cops Assassinated 21-year-old Woman Sitting in Her Car, Parents Claim

June 13, 2013 in Blogs

By Jonny Bonner, Courthouse News

Widespread corruption and violence alleged in now-disbanded narcotics unit.

Police shot a young woman to death “assassination style” as she sat in her car, amid “widespread and systemic corruption” in the undercover drug force, the woman's parents claim in court.

     Melissa Kennedy and Frederick Willard, parents of the late Danielle Willard, sued West Valley City, its police Officers Shaun Cowley and Kevin Salmon, Lt. John Coyle, Police Chief Thayle “Buzz” Nielsen, and 10 Doe officers, in Federal Court.

     West Valley City, pop. 125,000, is a suburb of Salt Lake City.

     According to the complaint: “On Nov. 2, 2012, at approximately 1:30 p.m., decedent Danielle Misha Willard, 21 years old, was fatally shot in the back of her head, assassination style, by defendants Shaun Cowley and Kevin Salmon, members of the narcotics unit of the West Valley City Police Department, while she was seated in her vehicle in the parking complex of the Lexington Apartments, … Defendants' execution of Danielle Willard was without justification, unrelated to any legitimate law enforcement purpose, and done purposefully and/or in reckless disregard of her safety and well-being.”

     Willard's parents say the “brutal killing” was “untimely and unwarranted,” and that Cowley and Salmon “were engaged in a pattern and practice of illegal conduct.” 

     ”Since the tragic shooting of Danielle Willard, it has been uncovered that Officers Cowley and Salmon were engaged in a pattern and practice of illegal conduct and widespread and systemic corruption, sanctioned by the West Valley Police Department, culminating in the unjustified and senseless killing of Danielle Willard,” the complaint states.

     The narcotics unit was disbanded after the shooting, the parents say, and West Valley City admitted “rampant corruption and systemic constitutional violations by its officers,” including mishandling evidence and confiscating drugs for personal benefit.

     ”In the months following Danielle Willard's fatal shooting, the narcotics unit of the West Valley Police Department was disbanded. To date, two supervisors and five other rank and narcotics [sic] unit officers have been placed on administrative leave, along with Officers Cowley and Salmon; another West Valley City Police Department officer, Michael Valdes, was discovered in Wyoming, dead from what appeared to be …read more


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