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Ex-police officer says Shaun Cowley facing tough road

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Utah) - It was 1999 all over again for Rob Joseph. After watching reports of former West Valley detective Shaun Cowley charged with manslaughter, Joseph understands what’s about to happen. Only people like Joseph know what Cowley is going through.
SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Utah) – It was 1999 all over again for Rob Joseph.
After watching reports of former West Valley detective Shaun Cowley charged with manslaughter, Joseph understands what’s about to happen. Only people like Joseph know what Cowley is going through.

Cowley was charged Thursday in the shooting death of Danielle Willard. Back in 1999 Joseph also was charged for firing at a driver who he claimed wouldn’t stop. The driver survived.

“It all happened in 3 seconds,” recalls Joseph. “It's so surreal. It happened so quickly.”

But instead of arresting the driver Joseph, a Salt Lake City police officer was charged with aggravated assault

“My career in law enforcement was over when I pulled that trigger,” says Joseph.

Here's why. Joseph was cleared of the charges. But Salt Lake police later fired him when he failed a fitness for duty test. The stigma followed him.

“People would point and say ‘hey there's that dirty cop, hope you rot in jail,’” says Joseph. “I had a lot of that. It was difficult. I kind of went underground.”

15 years later Joseph still can't get a job with law enforcement. He says Cowley may face the same outcome.

"He's very unlikely to be hired by any police department anywhere,” says Joseph.

But he says Cowley needs to get his story out.

“If he truly believes his actions he wants it out in the public,” he says.

Joseph claims it's easy to review the shooting with diagrams and analyze the evidence but it's different for the police officer.

“You have to get in the officer's head who makes that split second decision in two or three seconds,” he says.

Back in 1999, Joseph says he started shooting after he found himself on the roof of the fleeing vehicle. He says he feared that he would be run over.

“It takes anywhere from half a second to a second and a half to pull the trigger,” says Joseph.

But in those seconds he says things can change dramatically.

“In you mind you've already told yourself to pull the trigger and then it takes half of a second to three-quarters of a second to stop,” he says.

A grand jury found in Joseph’s favor. Five sitting judges determined that an investigation should take place as to why Joseph was charged in the first place. The ruling cast doubt on what police were telling prosecutors prior to the 1999 charges.
But Joseph says two Attorneys General sat on the investigation. He says Mark Shurtleff and John Swallow failed to follow through on the findings of the grand jury.
Despite the lack of progress from the Attorney General, Joseph says it isn’t over.

But as far as shooting a weapon during a split second moment, Joseph says he wouldn’t hesitate to do it over again.

“You take the action you felt was necessary at the time and deal with consequences later,” he says. “It's you're right to return home to your family.”

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