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Ex-WVC officer charged with manslaughter in Willard shooting

County D.A. Sim Gill made the announcement; the officer’s attorney calls the decision to prosecute “politically motivated.”

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He said the department has "completed more than 99 percent of that investigation," and the findings could result in changes in training and policy within the department.

"We don’t want anything like this to happen again," Russo said.

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"This is a very good police department," he added, "and people need to know this. Every week I see acts of excellence."

Gill, during his news conference on Thursday morning, focused on how evidence showed Cowley was standing to the side of Willard’s Subaru, and not in the path of it as he claimed, when he fired the first shot, striking Willard in the head. Cowley has claimed the car’s rear bumper struck his right leg.

"The evidence supports that [Cowley’s] life was not in danger," Gill said.

When asked why Cowley was charged with manslaughter rather than a harsher charge of murder, Gill said the charge was based on the "recklessness of the conduct."

If convicted as charged, Cowley could be sent to prison for up to 15 years.

The Subaru did brush Salmon’s leg, according to Gill.

Also, because Salmon fired his gun after Cowley began firing, Salmon could argue that he was following another detective’s lead. Plus, none of Salmon’s bullets struck Willard. Investigators found six shell casings at the scene.

Gill on Thursday gave a list of law enforcement agencies that participated in a task force, including the Salt Lake City and Unified police departments, that made recommendations to Gill’s office about the shooting. Gill said the last expert to review the case came to his office just 1½ weeks ago.

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It’s not clear that Gill, a Democrat who is running for re-election in November, wanted to file charges directly. City Weekly reported in January that Gill’s office had sought a grand jury to consider whether criminal charges should be filed against Cowley and Salmon. But a panel of five state court judges that hears requests to convene such grand juries refused the request, according to court records.

Gill declined Thursday to discuss any efforts to convene a grand jury.

"Nothing about this investigation has been ordinary," Gill said. "We wanted to be thorough, we wanted to be deliberate in the process."

Gill — with Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings — is also leading another high-profile criminal investigation, this one of former Utah Attorneys General John Swallow and Mark Shurtleff.


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