SALT LAKE CITY — Danielle Willard's mother says she is pleased that the officer who shot and killed her daughter is now facing criminal charges.

But while Melissa Kennedy understands that manslaughter, a second-degree felony, was the best charge prosecutors felt they could file against ex-West Valley police detective Shaun Cowley, she also wishes he could have been charged with something harsher.

"To me it was murder, it was downright murder. Yeah, he should have been charged with murder. But as far as what could be done to have a good chance of conviction, I'm OK with manslaughter," she told the Deseret News Friday. "I guess the bottom line is yeah, I'm happy he's being charged."

Cowley will make his first court appearance on July 7. He was charged Thursday in 3rd District Court with the Nov. 2, 2012, shooting death of Willard, 21, during a botched undercover drug operation by West Valley police.

Detective Kevin Salmon — who also fired shots at Willard and whose actions were also found to be legally unjustified by the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office — will not face criminal charges.

Cowley was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail Thursday and was immediately released after posting $10,000 bail.

Kennedy, who lives in Vancouver, Washington, has been waiting for more than 19 months for justice to be served. But she knows there's still a long road of legal battles ahead.

"There's so many different things that could happen between now and then that I don't want to get myself too overjoyed. I don't want to jump up and shout, 'Hooray, hooray' because in the end, my daughter is not coming back no matter what happens to him or what happens in this case," she said. "Do I want him to pay for it? Yes, I do, because he's the one who killed her," she said.

During those times when Kennedy is really missing her daughter, she'll write a letter to her and post it on Facebook. Recently, she posted a letter saying, "I know you are near me helping me through this, but sometimes it just hurts so bad.

"I promise you baby girl, I will do whatever I have to in order to make sure we get answers. I know we may not know everything, but at least you are at peace now. I love you my sweet baby girl."

Cowley and Salmon were members of West Valley's now disbanded Neighborhood Narcotics Unit. After the shooting, Cowley was fired from the department for allegedly mishandling evidence and being insubordinate. Salmon has remained on paid administrative leave since the incident. Cowley is in the process of appealing his firing before the West Valley City Civil Service Commission. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for Aug. 25.

Email:, Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam