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Fatal shooting by Utah police spawns second protest

Published January 22, 2013 10:20 am

WVC • "We want answers," demands mother of victim.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Family and friends of Danielle Willard, who was shot and killed by West Valley City Police on Nov. 2, will stage another protest on Tuesday to demand answers about the mysterious shooting.

An investigation by West Valley police into Willard's death 80 days ago at the hands of two drug detectives, which will be reviewed by the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office, has not yet yielded any answers. Tuesday will mark the second time Willard's family and activists have publicly aired their disappointment with local authorities.

"Danielle was an innocent victim of police violence, and we want answers," said Willard's mother, Melissa Kennedy, of Vancouver, Wash., who is traveling to Utah for the event. Nearly three dozen people attended the first protest in December.

The group will gather in front of the West Valley City Hall, 3575 S. Market St. (2850 West).

The family will be joined by local activists who formed the website JusticeForDanielle.org. A statement issued Monday by the group argued that the officers involved in the shooting should be fired and charged criminally.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said Monday that his office is still awaiting West Valley's report. In the meantime, Gill said investigators from his office are available to help if requested, but he can't rule on the shooting until the police finish their part of the process. Gill offered no timeline for when police will be done looking at the case.

"My office will very carefully look at the matter once the investigation is completed, " Gill said. "We know there's a community interest in it."

Under Gill, the district attorney's office has ruled three officer-involved shootings in Salt Lake County were not justified. One of those rulings led to charges of reckless endangerment against West Valley Police Officer Jared Cardon in the May 2011 non-fatal 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 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 and killed outside the Lexington Park Apartments, 2292 Lexington Park Drive (3710 South), as two plainclothes officers were conducting a drug investigation. The 21-year-old was unarmed and sitting in her car, according to her mother.

The investigation into Willard's shooting, which is closing in on its third month, has taken longer than all but two of the other officer-involved shooting probes in Salt Lake County since Gill took office in 2011. The investigation into the non-fatal shooting of Dennzel Davis by Salt Lake Police, which was later deemed unjustified, took more than four months. And the probe into the shooting death of Kent Ashworth by West Valley officers took about three months before it was ruled as justified.

kbennion@sltrib.com

Twitter: @KimballBennion —

Protest for Danielle Willard

The demonstration will take place 3:30 p.m. Tuesday in front of the West Valley City Hall, 3575 S. Market St. (2850 West).