An Alabama police officer was convicted Friday of murdering a man who had a gun pointed at his own head. A senior officer attempted to de-escalate the situation when Huntsville Police Officer William Ben Darby disregarded her orders and suddenly shot the suicidal man in the face.
Around 4:25 p.m. on April 3, 2018, Jeffrey Parker called 911 to report that he was armed and planned to commit suicide. Huntsville Police officers Genisha Pegues and Justin Beckles arrived at the residence and found Parker sitting on his couch while aiming a gun at his head.
Parker admitted that he was “strung out on drugs” and began speaking with Officer Pegues, who later reported that Parker posed no immediate threat to her and displayed no signs of aggression towards her. Pegues continued conversing with Parker for five minutes in an attempt to assist him with his mental health crisis.
Five minutes after Pegues arrived on the scene, Officer William Ben Darby pulled up to the residence and was recorded on police body cam video retrieving a shotgun before entering the home. Darby immediately ordered Parker to drop the gun.
Despite the fact that Pegues was the senior officer, Darby ignored her orders to calm down and lower his weapon. Darby pushed past Pegues and Beckles while commanding Parker to drop the gun that he still had pointed at his own head.
Eleven seconds after Darby entered the home, he fired the fatal shot into Parker’s face. Parker never aimed his gun at any of the officers.
Nearly a month after the shooting, a review board organized by the Huntsville Police Department found that Darby’s deadly force had been “within policy.” But in August 2018, a Madison County grand jury indicted Darby for Parker’s murder.
“An innocent man was murdered,” prosecutor Tim Gann told jurors in closing arguments. “He called for help, and he got Ben Darby.”
On Friday, the jury found Darby guilty of the murder of Jeffrey Parker. During a recent press conference, Madison County District Attorney Rob Broussard told reporters that the conviction carries a sentence of 20 years to life in prison.
“He was not justified in any way with what he did to Mr. Parker,” Broussard stated. “He had maybe no business being a police officer, truthfully. He was not wired for it…pretty clear.”
“We are in the first stages of shock,” Huntsville Police Chief Mark McMurray wrote in a statement. “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.”
Darby’s defense attorney, Robert Tuten, has vowed to appeal the verdict.