FBI to investigate police who shot Vancouver woman

Utah cops still withholding details of Danielle Willard's Nov. 2 death

By Craig Brown, Columbian metro editor

Published:

 
photoDanielle Willard

()

The FBI will launch a probe into a Utah police department that still hasn't said why a former Vancouver woman was shot and killed there in November.

Salt Lake City newspapers are reporting the FBI will look into the West Valley City Police Department's disbanded narcotics unit to determine whether there was corruption. It will also investigated whether there was a cover-up in the shooting death of former Vancouver resident Danielle Willard, 21.

Willard was shot and killed Nov. 2 while sitting in a car at an apartment complex where detectives had gone to conduct a narcotics investigation. Her family said that Willard had struggled as a result of drug use, and had moved to Utah and enrolled in a treatment program before she died.

Police haven't said whether Willard was armed, whether she threatened officers, whether she was suspected of possessing drugs, or released any other information. The officers who shot her have been on paid leave since the incident, according to The Salt Lake Tribune, and police didn't reveal until a Wednesday news conference that the narcotics investigation unit was subsequently disbanded in December over what the department's acting police chief, Anita Schwemmer, described as "concerns." She didn't elaborate other than to say there had been "allegations of department-wide corruption and civil rights violations" raised during investigations into Willard's death and the narcotics unit, according to the Tribune.

The Deseret News reported that the Salt Lake County district attorney has dismissed 19 narcotics cases that were investigated by one of the officers who shot Willard.

The FBI confirmed it will investigate the West Valley City Police Department, but a spokeswoman in Salt Lake City declined to give additional details, the Tribune reported.

West Valley City is a city of about 134,000 people and adjoins Salt Lake City on the southwest side. The city's police department has 183 officers.