Justice for Danielle Willard, Victim of Fatal Police Shooting

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Justice, for once and all for Danielle Willard? Will a crooked cop and an entire corrupt Narcotics Department in a small Utah town finally see the inside of a cell at the Utah State Prison for Manslaughter?

Listen, Utah! Is that the sound of the wheels of justice slowly starting to turn around with the murderer of an innocent young woman now facing charges? Consider the fact some were shocked and many relieved when Shaun Cowley, a former Detective for the West Valley City Police Department was charged with manslaughter on June 19, 2014. He was booked in to the Salt Lake County Jail and released after posting $10,000 bond. He initial court appearance for West Valley Justice Court is scheduled for Thursday, August 7th at 8:30 a.m. Cowley’s partner in the crime, Detective Kevin Salmon, is not currently facing charges while Cowley is looking at 15 years as Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill’s office determined that while both officers fired their weapons, only Cowley is “responsible” for Danielle’s death and is the only member of law enforcement facing prosecution.

November 2, 2012 was a chilly day, as most November days are in northern Utah. Danielle Willard, sister, daughter and dear friend was shot dead. In the back of the head. In the car in a lonely apartment complex. The 2 West Valley City Detectives approached her vehicle, from an unmarked car, in civilian clothing. Doubt exists whether the detectives identified themselves prior to shooting Danielle after what they alleged to be a “drug deal” at the Lexington Park apartments – 3644 South and 2200 West in West Valley, or if she (as they allege) attempted to hit them with her Subaru while backing out and trying to leave the area. They claim self defense as the reason for the shooting.

What does not remain in dispute are the facts:

1. A West Valley City narcotics officer who appears to be under criminal investigation has 19 cases with his name on them which were later dismissed by Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill.

2. West Valley Police Chief Buzz Nielsen suddenly retires.

3. West Valley Police explained why they shot Willard, and the union representing Utah cops wants the District Attorney to recuse himself for allegedly trying the case in the press.

4. A warrant unsealed on March 22, 2013 was disputed when it stated “a small amount of heroin” were located along with some shells and ammunition, which were attributed to the officers as Danielle was unarmed. Details from the Salt Lake Tribune regarding the warrants can be accessed via this link.

5. The Mayor of West Valley City called for reform to the police review board on March 27, 2013.


Danielle’s mother, Melissa Kennedy, – of Vancouver, Washington , spoke with local news outlet, Fox 13 in an exclusive interview on November 5, 2012 – click here for the video – at that time there was no known motive for the shooting. When asked recently asked about her personal opinion regarding cannabis reform, Melissa stated: “I would rather see it legalized rather than see people killed or locked up for life”. Detective Cowley was also interviewed by local station Fox 13, as an exclusive feature. The entire interview can be accessed via this link.


The survey (sent to every current Utah lawmaker, Senator, Representative and all hopeful candidates, in addition to local and international cannabis advocates) can be accessed via this link. The survey consists of the following questions and a sample of some of the responses (verbatim – the only thing changed in these quotes was spelling. No grammar was corrected, nothing was left out. There is no censorship in the following thoughts and comments, received as of the morning of July 22, 2014.

Are you familiar with the Danielle Willard case?

Of the 10 survey respondents thus far, everyone is familiar (and most righteously outraged) with the murder of Danielle Willard.

Do you know who Detective Shaun Cowley is?”

As with the first question, all who completed the survey do know exactly who Shawn Cowley is.
“Shaun Cowley is a Former West Valley City Police Detective facing manslaughter charges in the death of Danielle Willard in November, 2012.”

Do you believe Cowley is guilty?

“Yes I do. I believe he is guilty of murder. The angle of the shot that killed Danielle was not constant with what Cowley told CSI. I’ve also read the internal investigation report and I read that Cowley had drugs that he didn’t book into evidence. (he said he forgot) also had numerous cell phones, a purse and a big wad of money that I believe he stole from his drug busts.”

“Yes I do I am very strong in decision about Shaun Cowley and the Murder of Danielle Willard. Sim Gill did an out standing job on his investigation and Charged Shaun Cowley with Manslaughter Charges.”

“Yes. Of 1st degree murder! He’s a liar and he’s just as guilty as another civilian should be and would be…Lies, theft from suspected drug addicts, drug abuse, and using his job to act above and beyond the law.”

Do you believe Detective Kevin Salmon should also be facing charges?

“Yes I do believe Kevin Salmon should be charged with Danielle’s Murder also he was apart and was in with Shaun Cowley from the get go…They even went over their stories so they would both be telling the same lies about the case.”

“Yes At least manslaughter.”

“Yes, He is just as guilty as Cowley. Absolutely! he was an accessory, also a suspect. He is just as guilty as Shaun Cowley. He lies for him.”

Do you agree with the Manslaughter charge Cowley is facing?

“No I think it should be capital murder. No No I believe he deserves murder charges. It was deadly force for know reason when his or salmon intentions were to kill not to protect.”

“No I think It should be capital murder. Troy Burnett Should be charged the same for the murder of Todd Blair. Yes I am happy Shaun was Charged but I think it should’ve been FIRST DEGREE AGGRAVATED MURDER.”

“Yes, I think murder is more appropriate though.”

Is the possibility of 15 years in the Utah State Prison appropriate punishment, if Cowley if found guilty?

“Death. Or life sentence no possibility of parole.”

“Yes for the charge it is appropriate.”

“Yes, at least I think he should face 15 to life.”

“I think the sentence should be 15 to life.”

“It’s too light.”

What is your opinion of former WVCPD Buzz Nielsen’s sudden resignation?

“Heat was on him and he didn’t want to be charged with corruption or answer to the prosecuting attorney.”

“Yes, suspicious. He couldn’t take the heat from all the corruption within his department. He got out the easy way and he knew shit was coming his way and he resigned and said it was due to Medical Problems because he was going to be humiliated and embarrassed…He resigned before they made him to make his self look good…And Yes the whole WEST VALLEY CITY PD were suspicious and still are…They are still covering up stuff the whole department needs to be banned. What a disgrace to UTAH LAW ENFORCEMENT!”

“Yes Very suspect! They are corrupt and all should be investigated.”

“Yes very!”

What message would you like to send to Shawn Cowley?

“(You’re a) coward lying corrupt cop that is on a power trip and thinks he is above the law. We won’t stand for your lies and corruption! We as a society has had enough of your bullsh*t. How sad to think you already judged them (sic) people before you ever pulled the trigger. You were in no danger and it didn’t matter (who) you killed because they made bad choices in life. That could have been one of your children in the future. You say no way but guess what it happens to people we would never dream of getting involved in drugs.”

“Tell the truth,Shaun. I would like to tell you that you are getting off easy, and you should of been charged with 1st degree Murder in Danielle’s case. But Sim Gill did charge you, and that is all that counts.”

“I was at your hearing the day you were trying to get your job back and the SMIRKY SMILE you had on was just a little bit too much. You and your Family Members were all wearing Orange, and I told myself that it was a good color for you to be sporting around, that you were just getting prepared for the color you will be wearing when you are locked up and behind bars in the MURDER of Danielle. But your Smirky Smile sure went away real fast when Sim Gill announced your charges. Loved your booking photo, would of been nice to see your SMIRKY SMILE, but hey what can we ask for.I don’t understand why your buddy Salmon is not being charged. Sorry about your luck. You ruined your whole career, and you have put your whole family through hell, all in thinking you were above the law, and you would be getting away with it, and it would be justified.”

“I am a supporter of DANIELLE and have been since the beginning and will be to the end.”

“Everyone is hoping we will go away but we are in it to the end. You stole a life in arrogance, fear and ignorance.”

“Lying coward murderer. Thief drug addict power abuser that should be ashamed of his self.”

“Cowley should be apologizing to Melissa Kennedy for the murder of her daughter.”

“You thought you were a man with power, but in all reality you’re a coward that was given the wrong power. Hope you sleep well at knowing you’re a murderer.”

“He needs to be held accountable just like everybody else!”

“Continued prayers for you all. I feel your pain Melissa. This justice system has to change. We need to have our voices heard and get support from the public and show this system that we will not stand for this corruption any more!”

“My heart still goes out to DANIELLE’S family. I am with you everyday. Thanks to Melissa for having the guts not to let this go. She has so far made a huge difference.”

“I am so so sorry for your loss and I’m sorry for what’s happened. I really hope you see justice! Good luck!”

to view the summary of the LIVE results of the “Cowley – the Cowardly, Crooked Cop” survey.


A reminder – Cowley’s next scheduled court date is Thursday, August 7th at 8:30 a.m., supporters can find the latest news about Cowley’s court case and every other aspect via this link for their Facebook page Justice For Danielle Willard. Readers are also highly encouraged to take place in a public survey about the case, Cowley and what to expect now, available by clicking this link.  All comments are subject to publication, however not to censorship.

Are you in Utah and are you planning on attending Cowley’s court appearances? This touching photo was taken at one of the first protests. The size of protest groups have been growing as the word gets out about the murder of Danielle Willard. Next appearance is scheduled for Thursday, August 7th at 8:30 a.m. at the West Valley Justice Court. Supporters are encouraged to visit the Facebook page for regular updates about protests and the court case.

Photo Credit: Melissa Kennedy and Justice for Danielle Willard