Search warrants unsealed Friday in connection with the Nov. 2 officer-involved shooting death of Danielle Willard reveal that while drugs were allegedly found in her car — a brown tar-like substance in a plastic baggie — the rest of the items in the 21-year-old woman’s possession were ordinary and innocuous.
There was Willard’s pink and black Playboy wallet containing bank cards and her ID; a brown purse containing lotion, lip balm, a hotel key card, a bottle of over-the-counter sleeping pills, and a "tube" of medication, according to the records. A black and white make-up case was also found in the car, along with a cell phone.
War on drugs
A dozen criminal cases that could ultimately be dismissed in 3rd District Court because of unspecified evidentiary problems provide a glimpse into the drug war in Salt Lake County. › B6
But there was no gun or other weapons.
West Valley Police Detective Wade Sanders asked a 3rd District Court judge for the search warrants in November in order to inventory the contents of Willard’s car and obtain her cellphone records for text messages or calls related to possible drug transactions.
In the warrant, Sanders details events leading to the fatal shooting. He wrote that West Valley City police detectives were conducting surveillance on a house at 3644 S. 2200 West, whose occupants were suspected of selling illegal drugs, possessing counterfeit money and possible firearm violations.
The detectives observed Willard stop her silver Subaru Forester at the house. A man, identified as David Brandon Gines Jr., come to the driver’s side window.
"Detectives observed David Gines make a hand-to-hand exchange with Danielle Willard," Sanders wrote. "Detectives believed that David Gines and Danielle Willard were conducting a drug transaction."
According to the search warrant, Gines told police the next day that he had sold Willard $40 worth of heroin before going back inside the home.
After the alleged drug deal, Willard pulled her car into a vacant parking stall at the Lexington Park Apartments, 3710 S. 2200 West. According to the search warrant, West Valley police detective Kevin Salmon was already in the parking lot in an unmarked police vehicle.
Willard parked her vehicle near Salmon’s, according to the search warrant, and the detective saw what appeared to be Willard using illegal narcotics inside the Subaru.
Willard then moved her vehicle to another parking stall further east. Her vehicle was then facing north in the parking stall, and was positioned parallel to another vehicle facing south, according to West Valley City police Sgt. Jason Hauer.
Detective Shaun Cowley, who was assisting in the surveillance of the alleged drug house, then arrived in the apartment complex parking lot and parked his unmarked car west of Willard’s.
Cowley and Salmon attempted to approach Willard’s vehicle from the west, according to the search warrant, with Salmon from the front and Cowley from the rear.
"While the two WVPD detectives were approaching on foot, Willard put the car in reverse and backed out of the parking stall," Sanders wrote in the search warrant.
Sanders did not indicate whether the plainclothes officers identified themselves as police, but a police news release issued Thursday said the detectives identified themselves as police officers when they reached the car.
In the news release, police said that as Willard backed out of the parking stall, Cowley was struck by the Subaru, and both Cowley and Salmon fired their service weapons. Willard was struck and killed by the gunfire.
Sanders wrote in the search warrant that when other police officers arrived on the scene, they found Willard slumped over the front passenger seat of the car. After discovering the car doors were locked, police broke the passenger window and pulled Willard out that side of the car.
Efforts by fire department members to perform CPR were of no avail and Willard was pronounced dead at the scene. An autopsy later found she died from a gunshot wound to the head.
Though Gines has had criminal charges filed against him before and after the Nov. 2 incident, no charges have been filed involving any alleged wrongdoing on the day of Willard’s death. Hauer said Friday that charges are pending, adding that Gines was arrested the day of the shooting on four outstanding warrants.
Gines, 30, is currently in the Salt Lake County jail. He was arrested in March on suspicion of burglarizing a West Valley City home.
According to information filed in 3rd District Court, Gines was arrested March 8 in connection to a Feb. 17 break-in at a townhome near Archmore Court in West Valley City.Next Page >
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