Utah officer faces charges in shooting death of former Vancouver woman

By Emily Gillespie, Columbian breaking news reporter

Published:

 
photoDanielle Willard's Facebook profile photo.

A Utah police officer who shot and killed the daughter of a Vancouver woman faces charges of second-degree manslaughter, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill announced Thursday.

About two years ago, Danielle Willard, 21, moved from her mother’s Vancouver home to Utah for drug treatment. She was living in West Valley City, a suburb of Salt Lake City, on Nov. 2, 2012, when she was approached by two undercover police officers.

Willard, who was sitting in the driver’s seat of a Subaru Forester, did not comply with the officers’ commands to open the door of the vehicle, according to prosecutors’ reports on the incident. Willard then started to back up the vehicle, which is when both Detectives Shaun Cowley and Kevin Salmon fired their weapons. Cowley fired the shot that killed her.

Officials from multiple agencies in the area investigated the shooting. Based on the evidence, the team unanimously decided that Cowley acted recklessly in the shooting death and warranted the criminal charge, Gill announced at a televised press conference Thursday morning.

The investigation team found that Salmon also was criminally culpable in the incident, but that prosecutors did not have enough evidence for a charge, Gill said.

“Nothing about this investigation has been ordinary,” Gill said. He added that Cowley is innocent until proven guilty. “At the end of the day, we all have to trust the process,” he said.

If convicted, Cowley faces between one and 15 years in prison, Gill said.

Gill had announced in August that Salmon and Cowley were unjustified in their use of deadly force.

Willard’s mother, Melissa Kennedy, declined to comment on the announcement based on advice from her attorney.