Mother calls for charges against officers on anniversary of 21-year-old daughter's shooting death

Published: Sunday, Nov. 3 2013 8:43 a.m. MST

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.

Four of those nine officers returned to work in August. Three others returned in September following suspensions. Salmon remains on leave.

“We have a new chief that has come aboard that has brought all of these people back to work as police officers. … I call them thieves with a badge and a gun,” Kennedy said.

West Valley City Police Chief Lee Russo took up his position on Aug. 27.

“If he expects for his city to gain any kind of respect back for his department, he will not keep those people on board, and they will be charged one way or another with whatever they have done,” Kennedy said.

In an email, Russo said Saturday he couldn't comment on Kennedy's statements because he was unaware of the specifics but he did say that "this has been a tragic and traumatic situation for everyone — the officers involved, the entire police department, the community and most especially for the Willard family."

The resounding message from rally supporters was a cry for accountability.

“I’m just concerned. I don’t want it to happen to my children,” said West Valley resident Jessica Robinson. “I would be happier if I could see some accountability taken.”

Loretta Burnes, who was Matthew David Stewart’s neighbor in Ogden, held a sign that said: “Justice and peace stop the war on our streets.”

“All the violence with the cops, them killing everyone, it needs to stop,” Burnes said. “We’re here to open people’s eyes to what’s going on, to get things rolling, to put a stop to the brutality. Let’s get justice for these people.”

Stewart was charged with killing an Ogden police officer and shooting five other officers during a police raid at his home where he was growing marijuana. He later committed suicide in jail.

Burnes stood with fellow rally member Grant Coon of Salt Lake City. He said too many instances of police brutality have happened and tend to be swept under the rug.

“There needs to be some accountability,” Coon said. “When a police officer shoots a poor, young little 21-year-old girl and takes away her life, it’s just wrong. … I hope we can make a bit of a difference.”

Email: madbrown@deseretnews.com

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