Danielle Willard case search warrants unsealed

Posted at 8:03 PM, Mar 22, 2013

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah - Three new search warrants detail West Valley City Police's explanation of the officer-involved shooting that killed 21-year-old Danielle Willard in November.

According to the warrants, police say they found bags and balloons of heroin in Willard's car.

The warrants say there was also ammunition and shell casings but it's possible some of that evidence may have been from the shooting itself since cops said she was unarmed.

The warrants explain that West Valley City narcotics officers had a duplex at 3644 South and 2200 West under surveillance because the occupants were suspected of "illegal narcotics distribution, possession of counterfeit U.S. currency and possibly firearms violations."

On Nov. 2, 2012, West Valley City Police say Danielle Willard came to that home to buy drugs.

"During this investigation, Detectives Cowley and Salmon observed what they believed was a drug transaction between a male identified as David Gines and a female who was driving a Subaru Forester," said West Valley City Police Sgt. Jason Hauer.

Police did not immediately arrest Gines but followed Willard to the Lexington Park Apartments a block away. The warrant says Detective Kevin Salmon "was transmitting radio traffic on a WVPD special operations channel to other assisting WVPD detectives."

Then, Salmon says he observed Willard doing drugs in her car in the Lexington Park parking lot.

The warrant states he and Detective Shaun Cowley got out of an unmarked car and approached Willard. The warrants do not say whether they identified themselves as police officers but Cowley's lawyer Lindsay Jarvis says they repeatedly identified themselves as police and when Danielle Willard tried to drive off, she hit Detective Cowley.

West Valley City Police say the two officers opened fire in self-defense, killing Willard.

The Fraternal Order of Police say they will be exonerated when all the facts are revealed.

Meanwhile, Mark Geragos, the Los Angeles-based lawyer representing the Willard family, says the documents don’t paint a complete picture, they only detail a short timeline around the November 2 shooting. He says the warrants do not explain prior events and what led police to follow Willard in the first place.

"I don't think her shooting was a coincidence at all," said Willard's mother Melissa Kennedy. "I don't think it was random as if she happened to be there. I think she was driven there and they had a purpose."

According to Kennedy, Danielle encountered David Gines and his brother John after she relapsed on heroin but police haven't clarified if it was simply a drug connection or if there was more to it.

Cops arrested the Gines brothers just hours after Willard's shooting. They now face charges in connection with counterfeit money.

Related stories:
WVC officer under investigation may be connected to Willard case
Danielle Willard’s mother accuses WVC PD of a cover-up
Mark Geragos letter to WVC PD on Danielle Willard investigation
WVC police open up about officers involved in Willard shooting
Latino leaders question possible WVC PD racial profiling