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West Valley city manager denies cover-up in deadly shooting


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WEST VALLEY CITY — West Valley City city manager Wayne Pyle and acting police chief Anita Schwemmer publicly denied Wednesday claims the department is covering up what happened when Danielle Willard was shot by two detectives.

"There are many aspects of false accusations, rumors, just misinterpreted information that occurred," Pyle said.

Pyle acknowledged more could have been done from day one to clearly inform the public about what happened to Willard. The police have been tight-lipped about the shooting investigation, and after nearly five months, that has led to growing suspicion from the community that the truth will never be told.

"At the desire of the city council, I'm here today to answer to our citizens concerns that all is being done to find the truth in the Danielle Willard case," Pyle said.


There are many aspects of false accusations, rumors, just misinterpreted information that occurred.

–Wayne Pyle, West Valley City city manager


After a week of bad press, the West Valley Police Department is facings credibility questions.

It began with district attorney Sam Gill dismissing 19 criminal cases because of one officer's questionable handling of the cases. The very next day, it was confirmed that the same officer was one of two detectives who shot and killed 21-year-old Willard.

"That is our ultimate and first duty to make sure the truth is found and that is the best way to ensure it is found, to preserve the integrity of those investigations," Pyle said.

But the city now acknowledges there could have been more basic facts released the day of the shooting, to reassure the public before the internal investigation got underway.

"We were really boxed in from a standpoint of we've got to protect the integrity of these investigations," Pyle said.


I'm not going to comment on exactly what type of evidence does and does not exist, or what it is. I will say and can say with complete assurance nothing was lost or destroyed.

–Wayne Pyle, West Valley City city manager


Famed LA attorney Mark Geragos, who represents Willard's family, has also accused the city of covering up what really happened by destroying evidence and keeping Willard's car and cell phones from being analyzed by private investigators.

The acting police chief today responded in a letter to Geragos, denying his claims and saying the investigators have worked exhaustively to uncover all the facts and has the support of the city administration. The city also denies a claim by Geragos that surveillance video was destroyed in a mysterious fire.

"I'm not going to comment on exactly what type of evidence does and does not exist, or what it is," Pyle said. "I will say and can say with complete assurance nothing was lost or destroyed."

West Valley police have said Gill will begin to review the case by the end of the month and ultimately decide if the two officers were justified in using deadly force. But until that happens, the questions may continue until the public has all the facts.

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Sam Penrod

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