District Attorney Sim Gill announced the charges Thursday. A second officer, Kevin Salmon was not charged according to Gill.
"The defendant acted recklessly when compared to typical training and performance standards," says Gill during a press conference.
Willard's mother who lives in Washington state was watching the announcement on the internet.
"I am happy about this, very happy about this,” says Melissa Kennedy. “As far as anything else, I can't really say anything.”
Since her daughter's death, Kennedy has been on a mission to find justice for Danielle Willard. And Salt Lake District Attorney Sim Gill took a step in that direction by taking what some believe is a bold step charging former West Valley police officer Shaun Cowley with manslaughter.
"These are not easy decisions, these are difficult decisions and sometimes these are not popular decisions," says Gill.
The district attorney says Willard was parked in her car following an alleged drug deal.
Cowley and his partner Kevin Salmon started firing when they say she took off. Cowley claimed Willard tried to run over him. But investigators determined Willard was shot from the side, not from the rear where Cowley claims he was.
“The defendant's action contradicted police use of force standards and was not in a justifiable position where the threat of death or serious bodily injury was imminent to himself or others,” says Gill.
Gill says there was not enough solid information to file charges against Salmon.
"We did not feel that at this time we had the sufficient basis to warrant the filing of charges against Mr. Salmon," says Gill. "As I said, the team determined that there was criminal culpability for both."
Cowley was fired from his job last year in connection to other alleged improprieties by the narcotics unit he was a member of.
West Valley's police chief appeared to hesitate in giving his total support for the charges.
"We do respect the district attorney in this investigation and the finding conclusion he has come to ultimately leading to a criminal prosecution with one of our former members," says Chief Lee Russo.
Meanwhile, Danielle's mother is grateful for Salt Lake's district attorney to tackle a very controversial shooting.
"All I want is the truth,” says Kennedy. “Give me the truth and I will be happy. If it's not what I like I'll deal with it. But I just want the truth and that's what Sim Gill has done."
Thursday afternoon, Cowley was booked and released from the Salt Lake metro jail. His bail was set at ten thousand dollars. No date has been set for his initial appearance in Salt Lake’s district court.
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