WVC cop at center of Danielle Willard shooting appeals firing in drug case

Posted at 9:03 AM, Apr 23, 2014
and last updated 2014-04-24 00:10:33-04

WEST VALLEY CITY -- A former police officer at the center of the shooting of Danielle Willard is fighting to keep his job after being fired over accusations of mishandling drug cases.

Former detective Shaun Cowley was fired in September after the West Valley City Police Department disbanded its Neighborhood Narcotics Unit and the Salt Lake County District Attorney declared the shooting of 21-year-old Danielle Willard "unjustified."

Cowley is appealing his firing to West Valley City's Civil Service Commission, which oversees the hiring, discipline and firings of police officers and firefighters.

The West Valley City Council chambers were filled with witnesses. Supporters of Cowley wore orange ribbons, matching the tie he was wearing.

In an exclusive interview with FOX 13 last year, Cowley insisted that he would be cleared.

"When everything’s said and done and all the evidence comes out, I have no doubt I will be exonerated," he told FOX 13.

The hearing began with some fireworks. Lawyers traded barbs over why police officers and administrators who had been subpoenaed to testify had not appeared. WVC PD attorney Martha Stonebrook said former chief Anita Schwimmer and deputy chief Phil Quinlan had scheduling conflicts.

"That's the biggest bunch of baloney I've heard in a long time!" Cowley attorney Keith Stoney told commissioners.

Cowley attorney Lindsay Jarvis noted that many subpoenaed witnesses showed, except WVC police officers and administrators. She noted some officers had already said they would exercise their Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and said they have no "strategically become unavailable."

Stonebrook said officers also have scheduling conflicts, working cases and testifying in court.

She filed a motion for summary judgment, accusing Cowley's lawyers of not providing witness lists and exhibit lists.

"Those are poor excuses for sandbagging the city," Stonebrook said.

Jarvis acknowledged that some discovery is vague, but said she complied with requests.

"Although there is some backhanded comments going on here, we did everything we could to comply," she said.

Jarvis said she would accept a sanction for not being timely, but asked the case not be tossed. The Civil Service Commission met behind closed doors to consider the motions.

After nearly an hour, commissioners returned and asked how long it would take West Valley City to go over the latest information and be ready. Stonebrook said there were 5,000 pages of information and it would be "several days" just to look into it.

She asked to delay the hearing until the end of the month. Jarvis pointed out that much of the discovery provided came from West Valley City itself.

Commissioners again met behind closed doors to talk about whether to delay the hearing or dismiss it entirely, as West Valley City sought.

"We came very close to granting the motion for summary determination," commissioner Bill Leach said after the closed-door deliberations. "But in the end, the commission feels Mr. Cowley deserves his time, this hearing."

Commissioners ordered both sides to be prepared by June or July, when the hearing was expected to resume.

The delay infuriated Willard's mother, Melissa Kennedy, who sat in the chambers surrounded by supporters wearing T-shirts that read "Justice for Danielle Willard."

"This is just messed up!" Kennedy told FOX 13 outside the meeting. "This is just wrong, and of course, here we are, for the third time, we're coming back and having to do this again. It's ridiculous. It's not OK. I'm pissed!"