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Families of people shot by police call for accountability, more training

Published: Monday, March 4 2013 7:50 p.m. MST

Melissa Kennedy, mother of Danielle Willard, talks with the press as family and friends of Corey Kanosh, Danielle Willard and Kelly Simons hold a protest at the Capitol, Monday, March 4, 2013, in an effort to prompt police reform when using deadly force against unarmed citizens.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Chants of "stop police abuse" and "we demand the truth" sounded outside the Capitol on Monday during a protest against lethal action by police officers.

In addition to demands for greater police accountability, an unusual message sounded during the two-hour protest: Improve training so officers use options other than lethal force, and increase pay for police as incentive for better performance.

Dozens of people attended the protest in support of the families of three unarmed individuals who were shot and killed by police officers in Utah in the past six months.

Melissa Kennedy, mother of Danielle Willard, traveled from Washington state for the protest. West Valley police shot and killed Willard, who was unarmed, on Nov. 2 in the parking lot of the Lexington Park Apartments, 2293 W. Lexington Park Drive (3710 South).

To date, Kennedy still has few details about her daughter's case. Friends and family of Willard donned hot pink shirts, her favorite color, and in one case, a partially painted hot pink face.

In similar fashion, family and friends of Corey Kanosh wore his favorite color — purple — and gathered on the Capitol steps to join the movement.

Kanosh was shot and killed by Millard County sheriff's deputy Dale Josse on Oct. 15 in the foothills above the Paiute Indian Reservation. An investigation by Millard County Attorney Richard Waddingham cleared the deputy and ruled that the deadly shooting was justified.

Kanosh, who had been drinking, was unarmed, but had grabbed Josse by the throat following a car and foot chase. As the deputy stumbled backward, he feared Kanosh would kill him if he forced him to the ground, the report states. He fired two shots from his hip position and Kanosh fell on top of him and died.

Kanosh's family has filed a civil lawsuit against the county. Private investigator Christian Warmsley said he's looking into Kanosh's death.

"There is no reason why Danielle Willard or Corey Kanosh should have died if (the police) had followed procedure," Warmsley said.

Police are imperfect, he said, and if they do something wrong, they need to be held accountable. "We need them," Warmsley said, "but we need them to step up to the plate and be responsible."

He suggested a pay increase to provide an incentive for police to be better officers and avoid corruption. He also called for a fundamental shift in the training that officers receive.

Gari Laferty, Kanosh's aunt, said police should accept responsibility for their actions and not hide behind their badges. Throughout the protest, she carried a sign on bright green poster board that read, "Not a badge to kill."

Other protesters had signs attached to the backs of their shirts with the message: "I'm Kelly Simon's (sic). Don't shoot me in the back!"

Kelly Fay Simons was shot and killed by a South Salt Lake police officer on Jan. 9. Simons was suspected in a series of robberies, including one at Scaddy's restaurant that morning. According to police, she repeatedly tried to run over officers with her truck.

But Kristi Critchlow, Simons' cousin, believes her death may have been preventable.

"Basically they just shot on assumption. It's devastating that they just saw and shot," Critchlow said. "We just want to make sure that other families don't lose their loved ones because the training is awful. They just get to kill when there are other options available."

Simons' father, Scott, said he's become good friends with Kennedy as they've worked to create greater accountability within the police force.

"The police have been able to form policies and laws that exempt them from normal forms of justice," he said.

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