Friends say drugs may have been factor in fatal WVC shooting

Posted at 8:48 PM, Nov 03, 2012
and last updated 2012-11-04 03:16:15-05

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah - Police aren't saying much about the circumstances of an officer-involved shooting where a 21-year-old woman died, but the victim's mother and roommate say drugs may be a factor.

21-year-old Danielle Willard was shot and killed by a West Valley City Police officer at around 1:20 p.m. Friday outside the Lexington Park Apartments, located at 2292 West Lexington Park Drive.

Willard's roommate tells FOX 13 that she had recently relapsed on drugs and her family and friends believe drugs played a role in Friday's incident, but they don't think drug use justifies a young woman being shot to death.

Willard was from Vancouver, Wash., but wrote on her Facebook page in March that she came to Utah to get clean and sober again.

"Danielle struggled with heroin, she tried many times to get away from it. She tried by herself. I went through with her for a couple weeks. She went through three facilities, the last one in Utah," said Melissa Kennedy, Danielle's mother.

Krystal Harrison met Willard at rehab in the Salt Lake City area. The two were roommates at the Frontgate Apartments in Murray until last week. Willard was staying with friends for a few days at the Lexington Park Apartments where the incident happened.

"She had been struggling with a relapse over the last couple of weeks but I don`t think that could have justified her being killed," Harrison said.

Police say two plain-clothes officers were initially involved in the incident and one of those two officers was injured, but not from gunfire. The officers were on-scene trying to contact someone regarding an investigation, but the nature of that investigation hasn't been officially disclosed.

"It sounds like drugs were involved because undercover cops were there," Kennedy said.

Moments before shots were fired, Willard's Subaru collided with a red truck that belongs to someone else in the apartment complex. There were no police vehicles involved in the crash. West Valley City police won't say whether the accident led to one of their officers being injured; he was not shot.

Police haven't said whether there was an exchange of gunfire or whether Willard was armed. Her mother says Willard was likely unarmed and doesn't know what she did to force officers to shoot.

"My daughter has never carried a weapon in her life. She's about 100 pounds soaking wet," Kennedy said. "How can she be so scary that someone feels like they have to shoot her?"

Willard's friends and family have a lot of questions about what happened on Friday afternoon, but police have provided few answers.

"I would like to know who else was involved, why there were really there to begin with, who the suspect was and was Danielle the primary suspect," Kennedy said. "I just want to know what happened so I can put this to a close."

West Valley City Police won't comment further on the incident but say they're hoping to have more information on Monday afternoon. They are saying they are not seeking any additional suspects and both officers involved in the incident are on paid administrative leave pending investigation.

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21-year-old woman killed in officer-involved shooting