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Unsealed search warrants say woman killed by Utah police had illegal drugs

Published March 22, 2013 10:04 pm

Crime • Unsealed search warrants describe events leading to fatal shooting of Danielle Willard Nov. 2.
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Search warrants unsealed Friday in connection with the Nov. 2 officer-involved shooting death of Danielle Willard reveal that while drugs were allegedly found in her car — a brown tar-like substance in a plastic baggie — the rest of the items in the 21-year-old woman's possession were ordinary and innocuous.

There was Willard's pink and black Playboy wallet containing bank cards and her ID; a brown purse containing lotion, lip balm, a hotel key card, a bottle of over-the-counter sleeping pills, and a "tube" of medication, according to the records. A black and white make-up case was also found in the car, along with a cell phone.

But there was no gun or other weapons.

West Valley Police Detective Wade Sanders asked a 3rd District Court judge for the search warrants in November in order to inventory the contents of Willard's car and obtain her cellphone records for text messages or calls related to possible drug transactions.

In the warrant, Sanders details events leading to the fatal shooting. He wrote that West Valley City police detectives were conducting surveillance on a house at 3644 S. 2200 West, whose occupants were suspected of selling illegal drugs, possessing counterfeit money and possible firearm violations.

The detectives observed Willard stop her silver Subaru Forester at the house. A man, identified as David Brandon Gines Jr., come to the driver's side window.

"Detectives observed David Gines make a hand-to-hand exchange with Danielle Willard," Sanders wrote. "Detectives believed that David Gines and Danielle Willard were conducting a drug transaction."

According to the search warrant, Gines told police the next day that he had sold Willard $40 worth of heroin before going back inside the home.

After the alleged drug deal, Willard pulled her car into a vacant parking stall at the Lexington Park Apartments, 3710 S. 2200 West. According to the search warrant, West Valley police detective Kevin Salmon was already in the parking lot in an unmarked police vehicle.

Willard parked her vehicle near Salmon's, according to the search warrant, and the detective saw what appeared to be Willard using illegal narcotics inside the Subaru.

Willard then moved her vehicle to another parking stall further east. Her vehicle was then facing north in the parking stall, and was positioned parallel to another vehicle facing south, according to West Valley City police Sgt. Jason Hauer.

Detective Shaun Cowley, who was assisting in the surveillance of the alleged drug house, then arrived in the apartment complex parking lot and parked his unmarked car west of Willard's.

Cowley and Salmon attempted to approach Willard's vehicle from the west, according to the search warrant, with Salmon from the front and Cowley from the rear.

"While the two WVPD detectives were approaching on foot, Willard put the car in reverse and backed out of the parking stall," Sanders wrote in the search warrant.

Sanders did not indicate whether the plainclothes officers identified themselves as police, but a police news release issued Thursday said the detectives identified themselves as police officers when they reached the car.

In the news release, police said that as Willard backed out of the parking stall, Cowley was struck by the Subaru, and both Cowley and Salmon fired their service weapons. Willard was struck and killed by the gunfire.

Sanders wrote in the search warrant that when other police officers arrived on the scene, they found Willard slumped over the front passenger seat of the car. After discovering the car doors were locked, police broke the passenger window and pulled Willard out that side of the car.

Efforts by fire department members to perform CPR were of no avail and Willard was pronounced dead at the scene. An autopsy later found she died from a gunshot wound to the head.

Though Gines has had criminal charges filed against him before and after the Nov. 2 incident, no charges have been filed involving any alleged wrongdoing on the day of Willard's death. Hauer said Friday that charges are pending, adding that Gines was arrested the day of the shooting on four outstanding warrants.

Gines, 30, is currently in the Salt Lake County jail. He was arrested in March on suspicion of burglarizing a West Valley City home.

According to information filed in 3rd District Court, Gines was arrested March 8 in connection to a Feb. 17 break-in at a townhome near Archmore Court in West Valley City.

Police found Gines and another man, John Anthony Gines, inside the home, and a stolen truck parked out front, according to court records. An officer who searched the truck reportedly found counterfeit $50 bills, several syringes, a burnt spoon, a pistol holder and a "to-do" list which began with "check out house/out of town."

Gines is charged with seven counts related to the alleged crime: burglary, theft by receiving stolen property, possession of forged writing, failure to stop at command of a law enforcement officer, theft, possession of drug paraphernalia and theft by receiving stolen property.

In a separate case, Gines was charged in February with seven counts related to a counterfeit money printing operation.

According to court records, Gines and John Anthony Gines had left their car running in a parking lot at a West Valley City motel, and police officer looked through the car window and saw what appeared to be counterfeit bills, a syringe and a spoon in plain view.

The two men fled when they saw the officer, but were arrested soon after. John Gines allegedly admitted to officers he printed fake money using a printer at his girlfriend's house. David Gines was charged with five counts of possession of forged writing, one count of forgery and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia.

David Gines' past criminal history in Utah includes convictions for retail theft, interfering with arrest and illegal possession or use of drugs.

Cowley has also been named by the Utah Fraternal Order of Police as being the main investigator in 19 criminal cases that were dismissed by Salt Lake District Attorney Sim Gill earlier this week. Gill, who did not identify Cowley as the officer in question, cited a lack of "sufficient credible evidence with which to obtain a conviction."

jmiller@sltrib.com

Twitter: @jm_miller —

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