HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Last August 3, saw a Huntsville Police Department officer, William Darby, indicted and arrested for murder.
Today, the case remains unresolved.
It began in April 2018 with 49-year-old Jeffery Parker’s call to 911. Parker, a Huntsville resident who lived on Deramus Avenue, said he was at home and told dispatchers he planned to blow his brains out.
A short time later, Parker was dead, but not by his own hand. He’d been shot by Officer Darby, the third officer on the scene in response to the 911 call.
What happened between Parker’s call and Darby’s fatal gunshot has been argued over and analyzed for more than a year.
A Huntsville Police Department review board cleared Darby of wrongdoing in May 2018, finding Darby’s conduct in the shooting incident was within department policy.
But the Madison County District Attorney’s office brought the case to a grand jury. The 18-member panel decided there was sufficient evidence to indict Darby for murder. He was arrested last Aug. 3.
Huntsville Police Chief Mark McMurray defended Darby at a press conference the same day, saying the officer’s actions saved lives.
“Officer Darby performed his duties in accordance with his training,” McMurray said. “He is by no means a murderer.”
Madison County District Attorney Rob Broussard offered a different view of the case in announcing the indictment.
“Usually what you’re looking at is whether an officer reasonably feared for his life, before he was forced, to take, to use deadly physical force. And on these particular facts of the case, and we had concern that this was not a justified shooting.”
Broussard said it was the first such case he’s had in 30 years as a prosecutor.
Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle expressed support for Darby and over time persuaded the City Council to spend up to $125,000 on Darby’s defense.
“Actions, that he acted in within policy of the City of Huntsville, that result in him having a criminal trial, we need to back him,” Battle said.
Darby’s attorney Robert Tuten later filed for immunity for Darby on the grounds the shooting was in self-defense.
At a hearing in April on the self-defense claim, Darby testified that a fellow officer who was talking with Parker at the scene, was in a vulnerable position and Darby needed to take action to protect her.
But that officer, Genisha Pegues, testified she didn’t feel threatened by Parker.
Parker had a gun to his head, but video of the shooting appeared to show it never moved, even as Darby warned him to put it down or he’d shoot.
Madison County Judge Donna Pate ruled Darby didn’t act in self-defense.
That ruling was challenged by Darby’s lawyers, but the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals also rejected the request.
That appeal is now before the Alabama Supreme Court. If the court finds Darby acted in self-defense, the case is over. If, not, he’s likely headed to trial for murder.
Darby continues to work for the Huntsville Police Department, handling administrative duties.