Huntsville police Officer William Ben Darby has been convicted of murder by an Alabama jury on Friday. The officer fatally shot a suicidal man who was holding a gun to his own head three years ago.
How did it all happen?
On April 3, 2018, Jeff Parker, a Huntsville resident, called 911 and told dispatchers that he had a gun and was about to kill himself. The officers responded the call for help and promptly arrived at Parker’s home. There they found him on a couch, holding the gun to his own head.
Genisha Pegues, senior officer to Darby, was the first to arrive on the scene. She told the jury that “that she was de-escalating the situation before he got there”, according to AL.com.
However, Darby testified that “he shot Parker in defense of himself and other officers because he feared Parker might shoot them.”
This is how the events unfolded as reported by The Hill:
Body camera footage from Darby shows him running into the house with a shotgun and shooting Parker within 11 seconds of entering.
“Point your f---ing gun at him”, Darby yelled at Pegues before ordering Parker to drop his weapon, which was not aimed at the officers, the footage showed.
When Parker didn't drop the gun, Darby shot him in the face.
A terrible closing argument
Prosecutor Tim Gann told jurors in no uncertain terms the following closing argument:
“An innocent man was murdered. He called for help and got Ben Darby.”
The Huntsville Police Department shocked by the decision
The officer had already been cleared of any wrongdoing after the incident was investigated by a police review panel and he was allowed to still serve as an officer following the result, as Fox News reports.
Even the city council came to the officer’s help by voting to give $125,000 in taxpayer money to support his defense.
“We are in the first stages of shock. While we thank the jury for their service in this difficult case, I do not believe officer Darby is a murderer. Officers are forced to make split-second decisions every day, and officer Darby believed his life and the lives of other officers were in danger. Any situation that involves a loss of life is tragic. Our hearts go out to everyone involved”, HPD Chief Mark McMurray said after the guilty verdict came in.
Robert Tuten, the defense attorney, will appeal the decision as he is convinced that it “won't stand. Everyone's shocked by the jury's verdict.”
In the meantime, officer Darby could be facing 10 years to life sentence.
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