West Valley City settled Danielle Willard’s wrongful death civil lawsuit on Thursday, and will pay the family $1.425 million in exchange for the claims against the city and the police officers to be dropped.
The settlement is a compromise between Willard’s family and West Valley City, and the news release says is not an admission of liability on the city’s part.
“We gain closure for the case, we gain resolution so we don’t have to keep worrying about the cost, expense and difficulty of litigation,” said West Valley City Attorney Eric Bunderson.
Willard was shot and killed by West Valley Detective Shaun Cowley on Nov. 2, 2012 when he and fellow officer Kevin Salmon were conducting a narcotics investigation at an apartment complex. The detectives approached Willard’s car and when she began to back out of the parking stall, both officers fired. Cowley said he was concerned that her car was going to run him over. Salmon’s shot missed, Cowley’s shot struck Willard in the head.
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill found the shooting unjustified
, but a district judge dismissed the case. The investigation into the shooting found other problems with the narcotics unit, such as mishandling of evidence, which led to the unit being shut down.
In 2013, Cowley was fired for mishandling evidence, insubordination and dereliction of duty. WVC launched a new Vice Narcotics Unit in January of this year, which will have more oversight and training.
The civil lawsuit sued for damages, but did not request a specific amount.
“Where we got this number was just by negotiation and finally agreeing on something we could work with,” said Bunderson.
This settlement marks the end of the legal action for Danielle Willard’s case, as the family has released their claims.