SALT LAKE CITY -- A Utah prosecutor ruled Thursday that the shooting of an unarmed 21-year-old woman by police last November was unjustified.
For months, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill has been reviewing the killing of Danielle Willard, which triggered an internal investigation by West Valley City Police that uncovered misconduct by the department's now-disbanded drug squad.
Gill said at a news conference Thursday that the use of deadly force by two police detectives was not legally justified.
He said he will launch a second investigation to determine if the shooting warrants criminal charges against the officers. The West Valley City police department is wrapping up its own review.
Willard's family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city and police officers, calling her death an "execution."
The detectives fired six shots at Willard inside her car in the parking lot of an apartment complex during a narcotics stakeout, according to a 40-page report from the district attorney.
It was Detective Shaun Cowley's first shot that struck Willard in the head, killing her. Another shot from Detective Kevin Salmon grazed her chin, according to Gill.
Willard was trying to back up and take off, and the officers claimed she was about to run them over.
Gill said the evidence disputes the claim that the detectives were in danger.
An attorney for Cowley, Lindsay Jarvis, didn't immediately return a phone message Thursday from The Associated Press. It wasn't clear if Salmon had a lawyer. No phone listing could be found for either officer.
The investigation into Willard's shooting led local and federal prosecutors to drop more than 100 cases investigated by the West Valley drug squad. The police department found officers had mishandled evidence, kept souvenirs from drug busts and possibly lost drugs and money, among other issues.