May 8 (UPI) — An Alabama jury found a Huntsville police officer guilty of murder in the fatal shooting of a suicidal man in 2018.
William Darby faces 20 years to life in prison for the murder of Jeffery Parker. The jury came to its decision Friday after about 4 hours of deliberation Friday.
Parker was killed April 3, 2018, after he called 911, threatening to shoot himself at his home. Darby arrived on the scene to find Parker holding a gun to his head while talking to fellow Huntsville police officer Genisha Pegues.
Prosecutors said Pegues was trying to help Parker, but Darby unnecessarily escalated the situation. He shot Parker within 11 seconds of entering the man’s house, the Parker family lawyer, Martin Weinberg, said.
“In this particular case, there was zero hostility or aggression by Mr. Parker when the officers arrived,” Madison County District Attorney Robert Broussard said at a news conference.
“The facts of the case bore out that there was nothing justified about this encounter with Mr. Parker and justice was served.”
The verdict stunned city leaders, including Huntsville police Chief Mark McMurray, who said the department was “in shock.”
“While we thank the jury for their service in this difficult case, I do not believe officer Darby is a murderer,” McMurray said. “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.”
Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said he believed Darby followed the “appropriate safety protocols” during the incident.
“He was doing what he was trained to do in the line of duty. Fortunately, officer Darby has the same appeal rights as any other citizen and is entitled to exercise those rights.”
Parker’s family, meanwhile, welcomed the verdict.
“We appreciate the district attorney’s office for the leadership and courage as well as the jury for their service,” Weinberg said.