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New police panel established to investigate Willard shooting

By Andrew Adams | Posted - Nov 8th, 2013 @ 6:38pm


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SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake County District Attorney has set up a panel of police officers to construct a criminal case over the Danielle Willard shooting.

Prosecutors then plan to screen the case - to hopefully come up with a decision whether or not to charge detectives Shaun Cowley and Kevin Salmon - by the end of the year, according to district attorney Sim Gill.

Gill said Friday, the panel has been at work for over a month, and is comprised of six homicide detectives — two each from West Valley City Police, Salt Lake City Police and Unified Police.

"This is something that we recognize as very volatile and understandably so in our community," Gill said.

The two detectives from West Valley were involved in the original investigation into the shooting, Gill said.

Gill said he hoped to make an investigative panel representing multiple police agencies — something that is regular in officer-involved shootings in the future.

"That's something I've always advocated," Gill said. "I think that we should have independent investigations and independent reviews."

For Willard's mother, Melissa Kennedy, word of the panel was "great news" considering how long it has been since the Nov. 2, 2012 shooting.

"I know this is taking a long time, and as a mother it's just killing me because it's a constant roller coaster ride," Kennedy said in a phone interview. "I think that Sim is right on target with it. A little bit late — should have been done years ago."

Police lawyers had a different reaction to the pending criminal case.

"There is no way that it is criminal in nature and that's the proper conclusion to come to in this case," said Bret Rawson, general counsel for the Utah Fraternal Order of Police.

Rawson questioned why prosecutors needed police to construct a new screening packet when they already had all the evidence and documents related to the case.

Gill said looking at the evidence from the perspective of a criminal investigation was a much different matter from looking at the evidence to determine whether the shooting was legally justified.

Rawson said if the panels become regular in the future, he'd like to see all the police and prosecutors involved to be force science certified, or trained to understand and analyze the various physiological and psychological factors involved with police use of force.

"Really it's not fair to view a critical incident involving police officers without understanding the science behind that," Rawson said.

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