HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Body camera video of the moments leading up to Jeffery Parker’s death were played in court Tuesday during the murder trial of the Huntsville police officer charged with murdering him.
Officer William Darby is charged in the April 2018 on-duty shooting death of Jeffery Parker at Parker’s home on Deramus Avenue.
After a full day of testimony, the state rested its case Tuesday afternoon. The defense will begin its case Wednesday morning.
Parker had called 911, saying he felt suicidal. 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.
One of the two other officers who responded before Parker got to the scene, Genisha Pegues, was one of the first witnesses to take the stand in the trial. Pegues testified after body camera video was played in court, showing multiple angles of the confrontation that ended with Parker dead.
Pegues said in court she did not know anything about Parker when she responded to his house on a suicide threat that day, other than he wanted to harm himself. She entered the house first, followed by Officer Justin Beckles.
Pegues said she and Beckles approached the house with their guns drawn. Beckles identified them as Huntsville police but no one answered, she said.
As she walked in and stood halfway in a doorway, Pegues said she saw Parker sitting with a gun and told him to stay where he was. She said Parker told her he was in a bad place and strung out on drugs.
Pegues said she was talking to Parker when Darby arrived with a shotgun and began yelling at Parker to drop his gun. Darby also told Pegues to point her gun at Parker, but she said Parker remained calm and kept his gun pointed at his own head.
According to Pegues, she told Parker to lower his weapon because she didn’t want anything to happen to him. Seconds later, Darby shot Parker in the face, she said.
In cross examination, Darby’s attorneys — who have maintained the shooting was justified — questioned Pegues about her position in the doorway of Parker’s home. Under their questioning, Pegues also admitted she did not relay to other officers on the scene that Parker didn’t want to hurt anyone but himself.
Pegues also said she did not feel threatened by Parker during the confrontation, but admitted during cross examination that things could have changed quickly.
Beckles took the stand for testimony after a lunch break.
The prosecution asked Joshua Vogel, a former HPD Major Crimes Investigator, to take the stand. Vogel was responsible for officer-involved shooting investigations and led the Darby investigation.
Vogel went through his processes and actions when he first arrived at the scene. When Vogel arrived, Darby was in a vehicle with Lt. Sumlin. Darby was tested for alcohol and drugs, as per standard procedure, and both tests returned negative results.
Vogel went over crime scene photos during his testimony, showing pictures of the inside of the home through the front door and Parker’s body where it lay in the living area.
The weapon Parker had been holding was next to him. The gun was identified as a loaded Orion brand flare gun that had once been orange but had been painted black. Vogel testified the cartridge of the flare gun had been altered. The flare had been removed from the cartridge and replaced with buckshot.
Vogel says the flare gun was never tested because it could blow up and injure whoever tested it.
Vogel said the officers gave their official statements three days after the incident. They were not allowed to watch body cam videos before giving that statement because they might have altered their statement to match what they saw.
The prosecution played a video of Darby giving his official statement.
Darby said in the video that he had been working the streets for about a year and a half before that day. Before he arrived at the scene, Darby said he heard Officer Beckles over the radio and Beckles sounded concerned. The call was for a suicidal subject with a handgun.
In the video, Darby described his actions arriving at the home and that he heard Officer Pegues call out that the subject had a gun. Darby said he loaded his weapon, a shotgun. Darby said he saw Pegues with a hand on her pistol and said that she did not have cover. Darby said his initial assessment was that Pegues was in danger and she was not protecting herself.
Darby described his actions before entering the home and what he saw when he first entered the home. Darby said Parker was facing the officers with the gun against his head. Darby reported that all of the officers told Parker to “Put the gun down.”
Darby said he thought the other officers were in danger and asked Parker to drop the gun. Darby said he couldn’t remember exactly what Parker said, but Parker made eye contact and said something to the effect that he would not drop the gun.
In the video, Darby said all of this happened in a matter of seconds. He said he gave Parker another opportunity to drop the weapon, telling Parker “I’m not going to tell you again.” Darby reported he waited a moment and then shot Parker.
In the video, Darby stressed that deadly force is always the last resort when all resources have been exhausted but there were no resources in that room.
After the video, the prosecution questioned Vogel again. Vogel stated there was no evidence that Parker did anything aggressive.
The defense attorney asked Vogel about imminent danger and HPD policy. In this situation, with an officer standing in front of a person with a gun, no cover, no conceal, does the subject pose an imminent threat? Vogel testified that the subject would be a danger to officers but did not use the word “imminent.”
The prosecution rested their case in the murder trial for HPD officer William Darby. Jurors are asked to be back Wednesday morning.