A memorial event dedicated to a woman shot to death by West Valley City police detectives last month has been scheduled for this weekend, and while the vigil’s organizers expect to honor the memory of Danielle Willard, the gathering also will double as a protest against the agency that shot her.
Little is known about what happened on the afternoon of Nov. 2, when Willard was shot in the course of a drug investigation in the area of the Lexington Park Apartments. But the memorial’s organizers are perturbed by the fact that the unarmed 21-year-old was shot in her car and that officials investigating the shooting have released little information to indicate why Willard’s life was taken that day.
According to West Valley City police, Willard was shot twice in the head by two plainclothes detectives. One of the detectives also was injured in the altercation, but not by a gunshot. Willard, a native of Vancouver, Wash., who moved to Utah to overcome a heroin addiction, somehow crossed paths with the detectives while they were doing a drug investigation in the area of 2200 West and 3700 South.
“Her family deserves answers and prays justice will be served,” reads a statement posted on the Facebook page promoting the event. “We need all the supporters we can get as we are still unable to have any kind of cooperation from the West Valley Police Department.”
The event is scheduled to start at 3:30 p.m. Sunday in front of the West Valley City Hall, 3575 S. Market St.
West Valley City police Sgt. Mike Powell said police are aware of the gathering and that officers will make sure the protesters have a chance to express their First Amendment rights.
“Our job is to support the Constitution,” Powell said. “We’ll do what we need to to make sure that those who are expressing their rights will be safe.”
Powell said that the two officers who shot Willard are still on administrative leave and that the department’s internal investigation into the shooting is ongoing. “There is no new information to release at this point,” he said.
Investigators from the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office working alongside West Valley City police are expected to present their findings to District Attorney Sim Gill, who will then decide whether the shooting was justified.
Protest and vigil for Danielle Willard
P The memorial event begins at 3:30 p.m. Sunday in front of the West Valley City Hall, 3575 S. Market St. Protesters will begin a candlelight vigil at around 4:30 or 5 p.m.