MADISON COUNTY, Ala. — Huntsville Police Officer William “Ben” Darby took the stand in his murder trial Wednesday afternoon.
The trial will begin with closing arguments on Thursday.
Darby is charged with killing Jeffery Parker at his home on Deramus Avenue in April 2018. Darby shot Parker as he sat in his home with a gun to his head, talking to another Huntsville police officer, Genisha Pegues. Parker had called 911 and told a dispatcher he planned to shoot himself.
The prosecution rested on Tuesday, so the defense was up Wednesday.
Officer Darby was the third officer to respond to Parker’s home. Parker was killed by Darby after refusing to drop a gun that Parker had been holding to his own head.
Earlier testimony focused on training and reaction time in dangerous situations.
Darby’s attorneys called a criminal justice expert in rapid response training and a veteran police officer and trainer who both testified about officer training and the reaction time of an officer in a potentially dangerous situation.
Huntsville Police Capt. Dewayne McCarver, who previously served HPD as a director of training, also took the stand to talk about the department’s policies on shotgun and rifle use, hostage and barricade situations and use of force.
During his testimony about department policies, McCarver said Parker refusing to put down his gun and Officer Genisha Pegues not being under cover and having her gun down ultimately led to Parker’s shooting.
After eight other witnesses, Darby took the stand last. He went into detail explaining his thought process and actions and told the jury why he felt those actions were justified.
Darby explained that he grabbed his shotgun when he got to the scene because he believed he’d be on a perimeter. However, he said as he approached the house and saw two officers at Jeffery Parker’s front door. Darby said his mind started racing and he was trying to process the situation.
Officer Darby said from his angle it didn’t appear that Officer Genisha Pegues, who arrived first, had cover. Darby said he viewed Parker an imminent threat to Pegues, himself and Officer Justin Beckles who was second on scene.
Pegues and Beckles had 10 years of combined experience on the police force. Darby had 18 months of experience at the time of this incident.
Less than thirty seconds after arriving at the front door, Darby said he made the conscious decision to take over by intervening and pointing a shotgun at Parker. That’s when he said he shouted the commands for Parker to put down the gun he was holding to his own head.
Darby said Parker shrugged and shook his head no. The gun he was holding moved and that’s when Darby said he fired the single shotgun round, killing Parker.
In a tense bit of cross-examination, Assistant DA Tim Douthit asked Darby, “At the end of the day Mr. Parker didn’t obey you, so you killed him, isn’t that right?”
Darby loudly disagreed, stating that Parker’s failure to comply put all the officers in imminent danger.
Douthit asked Darby why he didn’t just pull Officer Pegues out of the house, or coach her, instead of shooting Parker.
The prosecution also asked if Darby knew that Parker said, ‘I’m not going to shoot y’all’. The assistant DA played the same piece of body camera footage twice, showing Darby where Parker said that. Darby said if he heard him say that it would have been a factor in his decision making, but it would not have changed the outcome.
Judge Donna Pate called a break shortly after multiple heated exchanges, when Douthit was asking about the law and instead of answering the question specifically, Darby kept explaining why there was an imminent threat at the scene that day.
Near the end of the cross examination, Douthit brought up the claim of self-defense, reminding the jury a person cannot use that as a defense if they are the initial aggressor. Douthit then pointed out that two officers and an investigator didn’t think Parker was aggressive.
In court Wednesday, Darby said after he gave Parker a final command to put the gun down Parker shook his head no and shrugged his shoulders causing the gun to move before Darby shot him. Douthit played an official interview Darby gave investigators in 2018 where he said the gun never moved.
Both parties will deliver closing arguments Thursday morning.
The central question the jury has to answer is whether this shooting was justified or not. Darby’s credibility may be the key to answering that for this jury