Utah Parents Sue City After Daughter Is Killed Allegedly “Assassination Style” By Now Disbanded Special Narcotics Unit

1031746Melissa Kennedy and Frederick Willard, parents of the late Danielle Willard, are suing local police in an extraordinary case in which they say that their daughter was shot to death “assassination style” by a now disbanded special narcotics unit that has been accused of corruption and abuse. They are suing 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 is a  suburb of Salt Lake City. Danielle Willard, 21, was fatally shot in the back of her head around 1:30 pm by defendants Shaun Cowley and Kevin Salmon. The complaint states “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 Complaints details allegations of corruption in the narcotic unit leading up to its disbanding.

dt.common.streams.StreamServer.clsA statement from the police insisted that the detectives believed they saw Willard buying drugs and that when they approached her Subaru Forester, she put the vehicle in reverse. They insist that the vehicle made contact with Cowley and they both fired on the driver. However, West Valley City recently fired Shaun Cowley. His attorneys admitted that “the FBI investigation into the West Valley City Neighborhood Narcotics Unit will reveal practices and customs within the unit that are inconsistent with policies and procedures associated with law enforcement within the State of Utah,” but insisted that Cowley was following the standards and practices that he was given.

The unit was disbanded after the disappearance of money and drugs as well as the tossing out of roughly 100 drug cases. What is odd is that there are no criminal charges given this record of the unit.

Source: Goldschp

25 thoughts on “Utah Parents Sue City After Daughter Is Killed Allegedly “Assassination Style” By Now Disbanded Special Narcotics Unit

  1. “What is odd is that there are no criminal charges given this record of the unit.”

    Not so much odd as incredibly suspicious.

  2. Cowley was following the standards and practices that he was given

    The old “I was following orders” defense.

    It is a loser.

  3. Well Dredd, that’s the same defense Obama used in promising the CIA that none of it’s operatives would be prosecuted for torture and war crimes.

    Now maybe you see why I advocate maximum sentencing for government employees who violate the public trust when they commit crimes under color of authority.

  4. Police in America are every bit paramilitary. And, especially since 9/11 and so on, have virtual impunity to shoot anyone they choose with a guarantee of protection after. I mean if homeowners can do it, why shouldn’t cops?

  5. Their story sounds suspicious to me; for their firing on her to hit her in the back of the head, she would have to be driving in reverse while facing forward. Who does that?

    If she was trying to hit the police officers, she would have to be looking back, like we all do; otherwise she would not know if or where they got out of the way of the car, and would simply be approaching them, and might drive (in reverse) right by them. Is that a reasonable plan?

    For the cops, who stands their ground and lets a car in reverse hit them? They would have gotten out of they way, even if they did that while firing on the vehicle, because even if they hit anybody the car might well continue on its path anyway.

    Were I a member of the jury deciding this case I would reject their story as a made up excuse. I wonder if an autopsy showed powder burns, and I’d be interested in the trajectory of this bullet in the head and in the car itself (rear window, seat, and dashboard or windshield if it exited the head).

  6. Ah yes, our wonderful drug war. Sure has worked exceptionally well. 60,000+ dead in Mexico, unknown dead in the U.S. Many thousands more throughout central america. And yet we march on, more war on drugs. The drug use in the U.S. is unchanged from the early 70s when Nixon started this insane war. And now add to it the war on terror where every person with a phone is a suspect.

    If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

    If all you have is a war on terror and drugs, we all look like suspects deserving of death. And who needs courts? The Prez himself has drawn up a kill list that he approves. Why can Cops? Are they any dumber than our Prez? Don’t answer that.

  7. Paul,
    I just got an email last night from an old friend who read my story from last Sunday about the overreach of drug/immigration searches of small private aircraft. He writes, in part,

    …”More and more stories are popping up about pilots being stopped, questioned and some even (detained for investigation) arrested. In some cases, they agreed to plead guilty to some obscure violation of the law (like the breach of the peace) that had nothing to do with flying plus an agreement not to sue the people involved or to talk with news and other media….

    Somewhere this is going to have to stop. The whole thing is taking on a Keystone Kops level of competence on the part of state and Federal law enforcement. And read his last sentence again. Those agreements not to go public is one reason we are not hearing about them. It is the exception that someone goes public rather than the rule.

  8. OS, You can’t keep drugs out of a maximum security prison where there are no 4th amendment rights. When people finally realize this basic truth they will come to realize the insanity of the Drug War. But, it’s big govt. business, on all levels of govt. They won’t give up that control, power and money easily.

  9. This is going to be an arduous case for the plaintiffs. Given the amount of lying and corruption in that PD, there is going to be difficulty in finding people who tell the truth or documents that haven’t been destroyed or hidden. But then it might be easier to convince a jury given the non-credibility of the defendants.

    I hope that the original shooting investigation was performed by an objective, outside agency. Otherwise it might be difficult to reconstruct because some evidence might have been deliberately not reported or some invented.

    There is no where near enough information for us here to determine whether or not this shooting was justified. But given this department’s reputation it is certainly going to be suspect.

  10. Words have meaning. Combinations of words can be used to briefly connote messages that are propaganda, as Frank Luntz has gleefully explained through the years:” His stated purpose in this is the goal of causing audiences to react based on emotion. “80 percent of our life is emotion, and only 20 percent is intellect. I am much more interested in how you feel than how you think.” and “Luntz’s description of his job revolves around exploiting the emotional content of language. “It’s all emotion. But there’s nothing wrong with emotion. When we are in love, we are not rational; we are emotional.” “…my job is to look for the words that trigger the emotion.” “We know that words and emotion together are the most powerful force known to mankind..”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Luntz . The phrase “War on Drugs” connotes much emotional response depending upon the listener. For LEO’s actively engaged in this war they see themselves as soldiers in a life and death struggle against evil. They view both the drug user and the drug seller as their mortal enemies and as “evil” people who must be eradicated lest they continue to pollute society.

    With a mindset that sees their roles as protecting the collapse of society and an attitude that they are battling evil forces that know no restraints, they see themselves on the side of all that is good justifying any act in the battle. Drug users actually become the greater problem since were it not for “their demand” for drugs the “pushers” would have no business. A “drug user” is therefore immoral and evil, thus dehumanized in their eyes. Is is really much of a jump for them to execute someone perpetrating that evil? Perhaps the
    shooting was an “accidental overreaction” for them it is rationalized as one less drug user. That is merely a scenario I’ve developed, not knowing the perpetrators. It serves though as a conceptualization of the path this country went down went it fostered a “War on Drugs”.

    Another scenario that occurs in “War” is that the “soldiers” become so accustomed to living a life that is on the edge that exceeding the limits seems
    reasonable. That is how non-combatants get massacred. When limits are exceeded those involved try to hide it, cover it up, or get away from the scene as fast as possible.

    Given the facts available, it seems to me that this was an unjustified shooting, whose motives are not apparent. In the aftermath, the officers involved developed the scenario that she was trying to run them over, which seems implausible given the back of the head wound. While the officers should be held culpable for the death of this woman, I think that it would be a mistake to lose sight of the basis of the original problem, which is the insane “War on Drugs”, that like Prohibition has corrupted law enforcement and played mischief with our Constitution.

  11. Maybe West Valley City is a small suburb to some, but it is the second largest city in Utah. I think it should be renamed Keystone.

  12. I want to hear more about how The War on Drugs keeps our communities safe and our children healthy. It would also be appreciated if I could get a few sentences about brave law enforcement officers who risk their lives every day as the “thin blue line” protecting citizens from criminals. Can I also hear about the utterly indispensable doctrine of sovereign immunity?

    Thanks.

  13. These jackbooted narcotics thugs terrorize and murder American citizens throughout this land. They lie, cheat and steal and never face any criminal consequences. Whenever a local prosecutor has the integrity to file criminal charges against these clowns the defense portrays them as brave warriors in the War Against Drugs and stupid and gullible jurors vote to acquit them. Despite all of the evidence against the corrupt Oakland police and the Los Angeles Ramparts Unit there have been few if any convictions of dirty cops.

  14. When I click on the final link in the Professor’s posting I am taken to:

    “The Art of Onfim: Medieval Novgorod Through the Eyes of a Child”

    “One of the most fascinating archeological finds in Russia has been the discovery of hundreds of “birchbark documents” (messages written on the bark of birch trees with a sharp stylus) that were created from the 11th to the 15th century.”

    http://www.goldschp.net/SIG/onfim/onfim.html

    It doesn’t have anything to do with the case but it is interesting.
    *

    This police unit has been out of control for quite a while, there are three other shootings ruled unjustified.

    “D.A. Gill, West Valley City’s top cop have ‘frank’ talk over shooting review”

    ” …The District Attorney’s Office under Gill so far has ruled that three officer-involved shootings in Salt Lake County were not justified. One of those rulings led to charges of reckless endangerment against West Valley City police Officer Jared Cardon in the May 2011 nonfatal shooting of Jose Contreras, but the charges were later dismissed.

    Gill’s office declined to prosecute Salt Lake City police officers involved in the other two shootings that were ruled unjustified.

    Willard was originally from Vancouver, Wash., but lived in Utah for the last few months of her life. She had moved to Murray to enroll in a drug rehabilitation program to overcome a heroin addiction.

    On Nov. 2, Willard was shot twice in the head outside the Lexington Park Apartments, 2292 Lexington Park Drive (3710 South), as two plainclothes officers were conducting a drug investigation.

    Willard was unarmed and sitting in her car at the time, according to her mother”

    http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/55685242-78/willard-gill-investigation-shooting.html.csp

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