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WVC police detective at center of Willard case may be fired

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Posted at 5:24 PM, Apr 05, 2013
and last updated 2013-04-06 00:43:49-04

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah - The West Valley City Police detective at the center of the Danielle Willard shooting may be out of a job soon.

Shaun Cowley's lawyers told FOX 13 West Valley City Police have already told the detective they intend to fire him, possibly before the review of the Willard shooting is released or before an FBI investigation into the department wraps up.

However, city officials say Cowley's lawyers jumped the gun.

"First reaction was that it's premature," said West Valley City Police spokesperson Aaron Crim. "No decision has been made whatsoever regarding (Cowley's) employment."

Cowley still has his job, says Crim. He adds that the "intent to terminate" is a recommendation by internal affairs investigators.

"Ultimately the decision falls on acting chief Anita Schwemmer and she hasn't made that decision," said Crim.

Cowley's lawyers say while that's technically true, the process to fire him has begun, and after an internal audit and a "series of internal affairs investigations" he'll likely be fired in the next 7-10 days.

According to the letter from Attorney Bret Rawson, West Valley City cited issues such as "mishandling evidence, insubordination and derelection of duty."

[Read the full statement here]

In March, Cowley denied wrongdoing to FOX 13’s Ben Winslow.

Cowley said he never tampered with evidence or had any in his possession.

His lawyers say he simply followed the West Valley City Police Department's flawed policies but didn't commit crimes and was hung out to dry by West Valley City's leadership. Cowley was part of the Neighborhood Narcotics Unit that disbanded in December, after the Danielle Willard shooting.

The FBI is now investigating that unit after Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill dismissed 19 cases, and may dismiss more, all linked to that narcotics unit.

Cowley's lawyers say, "It is our position that the FBI investigation into the West Valley City Neighborhood Narcotics Unit will reveal practices and customs within that unit that are inconsistent with policies and procedures associated with law enforcement in the state of Utah."

"I don't want to go into the details of it. What I can say is that we've treated the issues we've discovered with the seriousness they deserve and taken the appropriate action," said Gill.