Support group to hold protest about Willard homicide investigation

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WEST VALLEY CITY — It's been more than a month since 21-year-old Danielle Willard was shot and killed by West Valley City police.

Police have been tight-lipped about the details, drawing suspicion from folks who have rallied around the family. The group is holding a protest on Sunday outside West Valley City Hall and the police department.

They will have a candlelight vigil in honor of Willard just after sundown. Her family hopes it will put pressure on police to release more information about her death.

"To not have answers about why my daughter died, why she had to be killed when she had no weapon on her, that's just consumed my life," said Melissa Kennedy, Willard's mother, who lives in Washington state. "We're still waiting."

Kennedy knows her daughter battled with a drug addiction. Willard moved to Utah to get help for it. Her mom says she may have gotten involved with the wrong crowd, but she wants people to reserve judgment until the truth comes out.

"Make sure you have never done anything wrong in your life before you start saying she deserved to die," Kennedy said.

Last month, Kennedy came to Utah to see the place where her daughter's life ended. Willard was shot twice as undercover officers were conducting an investigation. Police haven't revealed more than that.

To not have answers about why my daughter died, why she had to be killed when she had no weapon on her, that's just consumed my life.

–Melissa Kennedy, mother of Danielle Willard

"My gut is they're trying to cover something up," Kennedy said.

Nearly 900 people have liked a Facebook page called Justice for Danielle Willard. There's also a blog, Justice for Danielle, about Willard started by community organizer Jesse Fruhwirth. He didn't know Willard but felt compelled to help her family get answers. He said the police department's silence raises some serious questions.

"Time will tell, but I think that probably speaks to the egregiousness of this shooting and the death of Danielle Willard," Fruhwirth said.

West Valley police are aware of the protest. A spokesman said the department has no new information to release. The two officers involved in the shooting are still on administrative leave.


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