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West Valley detective in fatal shooting also focus of credibility investigation

Police union wants D.A. to recuse himself for 'inappropriate' actions

Published: Thursday, March 21 2013 6:45 p.m. MDT

"I knew that's what they would try to come up with, because that's what they have alluded to," she said. "I do not believe she was trying to get away from the officers. I've seen too many pictures and I have had too many witnesses that have proven otherwise."

Because Willard herself had recently been seeking help from police and had been contacting them frequently, Kennedy believes her daughter may have even known the plain-clothed detectives.

Is there a coverup?

Kennedy's Los Angeles-based attorney, Mark Geragos, whose clients have included Michael Jackson and Winona Ryder, had even stronger words in reaction to the police department's explanation.

"This has the earmarks of a police coverup," he said. "Enough is enough. I am coming to Salt Lake City myself. (The West Valley police description) is riddled with falsehoods that are not true. The West Valley City police should be ashamed of themselves."

On March 11, Geragos sent a letter to the department requesting some of Willard's personal items as well as information about the case. It was the second letter he sent to West Valley police. The first, sent in January, went unanswered, Geragos said.

The March letter requests Willard's cellphones and indicates there may still be evidence on them.

"Any effort to destroy that evidence will only further implicate your department in what appears to be a department-wide coverup," Geragos wrote. He also made reference to a "mysterious fire" that destroyed video that allegedly recorded the shooting.

"Being that this crucial evidence has inexplicably been destroyed, we demand you preserve all evidence relating to investigations conducted by your agency by releasing and/or making available for inspection all personal property and other evidence relating" to the Willard investigation, Geragos wrote.

Hauer said Thursday he had no information about a fire.

Long investigation

After the shooting, investigators say Willard's car continued to move.

"The two cars were parked parallel to each other. As she reversed out of the stall, it did a circular motion, hitting into the other vehicle," Hauer said.

The internal investigation into the shooting is still ongoing after more than four months.

"The investigation into the shooting is nearly completed and will be presented to the D.A.'s office," the sergeant said. "Thorough investigations take as much time as is required to complete every task necessary and to provide a detailed and accurate account as to what occurred during an incident. It is unrealistic to predict how long examinations and other processing of evidence will take. It sometimes takes more time than the public we serve may expect."

Salmon was also involved in a fatal officer-involved shooting in 2007. Christoper Cotton, 22, was shot and killed in the parking lot of a 7-Eleven on the corner of 3500 South and 4800 West when Cotton opened fire on police officers without warning. The actions of Salmon and another officer were determined by the district attorney's office to be justified.

Kennedy said she still has faith that the investigation about to be conducted by the district attorney's office will unveil the truth.

"Yes, I believe Sim Gill will come out with the truth," she said. "The truth will come out in the end, and I truly believe it. My faith tells me that."

But Bret Rawson, attorney for the Utah Fraternal Order of Police, issued a statement Thursday saying he is confident that both Cowley and Salmon would be cleared in the shooting investigation.

"We are confident that these officers acted appropriately to defend themselves. The investigation is ongoing, and we expect all facts will be made public. These types of incidents require officers to make split-second decisions to defend themselves and the public at large. This incident was no different. In response to actions by the decedent, these officers feared for their lives and the safety of others," the FOP said in a prepared statement.

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