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Federal appeals court upholds firing of officer in the death of Danielle Willard

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Posted at 5:22 PM, Aug 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-20 21:24:49-04

DENVER — A federal appeals court has upheld the firing of ex-West Valley City police officer Shaun Cowley for the 2012 shooting of Danielle Willard.

In an order issued on Tuesday, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Cowley’s claims that it was retaliation for his blowing the whistle on troubles in the West Valley City Police Department’s neighborhood narcotics unit.

“Indeed, we do not believe a rational jury would credit Cowley’s assertion,” Judge Joel Carson III wrote.

Cowley alleged that as retaliation for his speaking out about the narcotics unit, detectives advocated for criminal charges to be leveled against him over Danielle Willard’s death. The 21-year-old woman was killed during an undercover drug operation. The Salt Lake County District Attorney ruled the shooting not justified and leveled criminal charges against Cowley. A judge dismissed the case mid-hearing, ruling Cowley reasonably believed his life was in danger.

West Valley City police fired Cowley over accusations of mishandling evidence. Cowley fought to be reinstated, reached a deal over back pay with the city, then resigned.

Read the 10th Circuit ruling here: