Willard family lawyer: WVC Police Dept. uncooperative

Posted at 5:25 PM, Apr 04, 2013
and last updated 2013-04-05 00:48:50-04

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah - The lawyer representing the family of Danielle Willard, who was killed in an officer-involved shooting last November, is calling her death an execution and accuses the West Valley City Police Dept. of a cover-up.

The accusations come after the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office dropped nearly twenty drug-related cases, leading to allegations of corruption within the West Valley City Police Dept., particularly its Neighborhood Narcotics Unit, which was dissolved in December 2012.

That narcotics unit is at the center of the Danielle Willard shooting. Two officers within the unit were at the Lexington Park apartments on Nov. 2, 2012.

Police say the officers approached Willard that afternoon after they saw her using drugs in her vehicle. When they approached, she tried to flee, hitting one of the officers with her vehicle. The officers opened fire, killing Willard.

In the five months that followed, West Valley City police revealed little information about the events that led up to Willard's death. Critics of the department say that suggests a department-wide cover-up.

West Valley City police said in a statement earlier this week that they're pushing for an FBI  investigation into their department.

"By doing this investigation, we're hoping to mitigate that and show people that we're open and honest and can be trusted," said acting West Valley City Police Chief Anita Schwemmer.

In a letter obtained exclusively by FOX 13, Los Angeles-based Mark Geragos says the West Valley City police request for an FBI investigation into their department is "disingenuous" and says the department has been uncooperative with federal investigators.

[Read the full text of Geragos' April 3 letter to the West Valley City Police Dept.]

West Valley City has been in communication with the FBI for several weeks, but Geragos suggests that they've been less than forthcoming.

"There's a degree of irony that your department's attempt to cover up backfired when another agency refused to insulate you from cooperating with federal authorities," the letter reads.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill has already dropped 19 of the narcotics unit's cases, and now he's reviewing at least 100 more cases that may be dropped. Gill won't identify the specific concern he has with those cases.