Shooting death by West Valley police not legally justified, D.A. determines
New investigation launched to determine whether criminal charges should be filed
The two officers remain on paid administrative leave. West Valley Deputy Police Chief Mike Powell said the department will now conclude its investigation before determining what course of action to take, if any, against the two.
Even though the district attorney's office has concluded the shooting was not justified because the officers' lives weren't in imminent danger, Powell said West Valley will still be looking into all of the circumstances surrounding the shooting, including whether the officers justifiably believed their lives were in danger.
"We are and will continue to be reviewing whether those actions for the entirety of this incident were within policy or if they were not," Powell said. "It is very different from what the district attorney's obligation is as to whether or not they were justified or unjustified."
Gill's investigation also looked into whether there was any type of cover-up involved in the shooting case, but no evidence to support that was found. There were rumors that Willard had some type of contact with the officers or the department prior to the shooting. Gill said his office found that the first time Cowley and Salmon ever saw Willard was in the parking lot that day.
The Willard shooting, however, was just the beginning of a firestorm of controversy that surrounded the department over the next several months.
After the shooting, West Valley police found evidence from a separate drug investigation in the trunk of Cowley's vehicle that was not supposed to be there. That eventually led to a much broader investigation and the disbanding of the department's Neighborhood Narcotics Unit.
It also snowballed into the dismissal of 124 state and federal cases investigated by West Valley police because of credibility issues, and an additional seven officers from the former drug unit were placed on paid administrative leave. Those officers remained on paid leave Thursday.
West Valley City officials later identified six problem areas involving the drug unit, including undisclosed amounts of missing drugs and money; officers taking "trophies, trinkets or souvenirs" from drug-related crime scenes; the use of GPS trackers without first securing a warrant; improper use of confidential informants, improper handling of evidence within the unit; as well as officers taking small amounts of cash and other items from seized vehicles.
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