from the officers-express-concern-over-disturbing-frequency-of-lightning-strikes dept
It’s rare enough to see a law enforcement officer convicted of murder. It’s even rarer to see it happen twice in one year.
In June, Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering George Floyd. Chauvin placed his knee on the neck of the unarmed, unresisting Floyd for more than nine minutes — and for two minutes after another officer said he couldn’t detect a pulse. For this brutal act — one that prompted months of heated protests around the nation — Chauvin was sentenced to twenty-two years in prison.
It has happened again. A Huntsville, Alabama police officer has been convicted on murder charges and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
William Ben Darby, the Huntsville police officer convicted of murder for shooting and killing Jeff Parker, was sentenced today to 25 years in prison.
A Madison County jury on May 7 found Darby guilty of murder for shooting and killing Parker, a 49-year-old man threatening suicide, three years ago.
Officer Darby was not the only officer to respond to the call about the suicidal man. He wasn’t even the first to arrive. Officer Genisha Pegues was already there, trying to de-escalate the situation. The suicidal Parker had already told Pegues he had no interest in hurting her. He was holding a gun, but it was pointed at his own head.
Darby arrived, and within 30 seconds had retrieved a shotgun from his cruiser and killed Parker by shooting him in the face. Darby’s entire interaction with the suicidal man consisted of him shouting four times for Parker to drop the gun and yelling at Officer Pegues to point her gun at Parker. All of this — Darby’s entry and his murder of Parker — took only eleven seconds.
In another rarity, one of the witnesses testifying against Darby was Officer Pegues, who had the situation at least partially under control before Officer Darby burst into the house and decided the only way to help the suicidal man was to kill him.
Pegues, testifying for the prosecution, told the jury that she never felt threatened by Parker and that she didn’t need Darby to save her life. She testified that Parker told her he didn’t want to hurt her.
Robert Tuten, Darby’s lead defense attorney, went after Pegues.
Tuten asked whether Pegues put herself and other officers in danger by standing in front of an armed man with her gun pointed down, rather than at Parker.
“Dangerous is the job,” Pegues, who was a police officer for six years, replied. She said tensions rose during the encounter when Darby arrived.
Pegues, who violated one of the many unwritten rules of policing by testifying against a fellow cop, has since left the Huntsville Police Department. She applied for a job with the FBI. She’s probably better off anywhere else. The PD’s internal investigation cleared Darby of wrongdoing. Obviously, the jury of his peers disagreed with PD’s assessment.
And she’s probably better off being out of Huntsville altogether. The PD tried to get Darby off the hook. So did the city itself, which decided it would spend taxpayer money defending the cop from criminal charges. The city council passed a resolution to pay up to $75,000 of Darby’s legal expenses. And it did this without viewing body cam footage of the shooting, despite the fact the city had access to the recordings.
Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle and Police Chief Mark McMurray say Officer William Darby did nothing wrong and isn’t a murderer.
And continued to support the officer even after Darby was convicted.
Mayor Tommy Battle and Police Chief Mark McMurray even questioned the guilty verdict after the trial.
Once again, they’re at odds with a jury that decided the officer did do something wrong and handed down a conviction that says he’s a murderer.
And even after the conviction and sentencing, the city continued to support Darby, at least indirectly. The city refused to release footage of the shooting, despite these recordings being entered as evidence in a trial that had reached its conclusion. Journalists from several news outlets (led by AL.com) had to get a court order to obtain copies of the recordings.
AL.com has published the recordings. This is what the jury saw: a cop enter a house and decide — within 11 seconds — to kill someone who posed only a threat to himself. The jury also saw another cop already on the scene, one that felt this situation needed to be handled with care and concern, rather than with bullets and violence. Her decision was overridden by Officer Darby, who had had no interaction with the suicidal man other than shouting at him.
Officer Darby didn’t spend much time mulling things over before deciding to shoot a fellow human being in the face with a shotgun. He’ll have plenty of time to think about it now.