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Salt Lake Co. DA drops 19 cases linked to West Valley officer

By Associated Press, Associated Press | Posted - Mar 20th, 2013 @ 10:54pm

SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office has filed motions to dismiss 19 cases linked to one police officer after prosecutors determined they don't have enough credible evidence to convict someone.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said Wednesday that most of the cases involve drug offenses and were identified as part of a continuing investigation into one West Valley City police officer.

"We do believe that, right now, it is isolated to one detective," Gill said.

In a press conference Wednesday night, West Valley police wouldn't release the name of the detective now being questioned. But a spokesman said he worked in the narcotics division.

"I would say the acts of one officer don't represent the many officers that work in this department," the spokesman said.

He said the department has called in an outside agency to begin an internal investigation. Gill confirmed that agency is the Salt Lake City Police Department.

This isn't the first time West Valley police have been on high watch. In November 2012, a drug investigation ended with 21-year-old Danielle Willard being shot and killed by undercover West Valley City officers. Willard was unarmed.

Both Gill and West Valley police said the investigation of Willard's death is separate from the investigation into the officer. Still, Willard's mother, Melissa Kennedy, said it may open other doors.

"It sounds like, to me, that one more person has been found out in Salt Lake City; and if there's one there, there's got to be more," Kennedy said.

Gill's office is now looking into other cases where this officer played a critical role. As for the defendants in all 19 cases, charges are now dropped. If the suspects are in custody, they'll be released.

"Thankfully, this is rare. And it's unfortunate, but this is also how our system is supposed to work," Gill said.

Meanwhile, the West Valley officer in question is on paid administrative leave. The department wouldn't say how long he has been on the force.

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