Madison County DA says evidence often clear in cases involving law enforcement officers

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Huntsville police officer William Darby, who is charged with murder, plans to ask the Alabama Supreme Court to find that he acted in self-defense in the 2018 on-duty shooting of Jeffrey Parker.

Darby’s petition to the state’s high court follows the Tuesday rejection of his efforts to get a rehearing by the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals. The appeals court had previously rejected Darby’s request that it overrule Madison County Circuit Judge Donna Pate’s ruling denying Darby’s request for immunity based on the self-defense claim.

While Darby is facing the prospect of a murder trial, two other HPD officers involved in an on-duty fatal shooting May 30  of Army veteran Crystal Ragland won’t face charges, according to the Madison County District Attorney’s office.

The officers in that case were cleared by a Huntsville Police Department shooting review board last week. The DA’s office also said based on the evidence, the shooting was justified.

Darby was also found to have acted within department policy by the shooting review board, but the DA’s office brought the case to a Madison County grand jury, which indicted Darby last August.

Madison County District Attorney Rob Broussard told WHNT News 19 Wednesday in every instance, his office follows the evidence.

“For the most part, cases involving a police officer do lend themselves to a very clear picture of what happened,” Broussard said.

Prosecutors have stressed in the Darby case  that the issue often comes down to whether officers face an imminent threat.
Ragland reportedly began to draw a weapon from her pocket despite police warnings, according to the Huntsville Police Department.

In the Darby case, Parker had called 911 telling them he was going to blow his brains out. Darby was the third officer on the scene and soon after arriving ordered Parker — who was holding a gun to his own head — to drop the weapon. Darby, testified at his immunity hearing that he was acting to protect himself and a fellow officer who was facing Parker with no cover or concealment. Darby issued the command to drop the weapon three times, records show. Parker’s gun didn’t leave his own temple, before Darby fired, prosecutors argued.

“As a general rule you better be able to articulate why you felt the way you felt,” Broussard said Wednesday. “Why you felt your life was in imminent danger.”

Broussard said while the police shooting review process looks at policy standards, his office judges if there is evidence of potential criminal conduct, based on all the available evidence.

“If it’s an encounter with law enforcement and body cams are in play, a person could not imagine much better evidence than what’s coming off that body camera,” he said.

Broussard said not every case goes to the grand jury. He said his office reviews the evidence, then decides if the case should go to a grand jury. He said he won’t waste a grand jury’s time if the evidence doesn’t support a criminal charge, but if prosecutors have concerns, they’ll bring it to a grand jury.

Darby’s case did go to a grand jury. The fatal shooting of Ragland will not.

“It was clear to us this was a justified shooting, they had to do what they did,” Broussard said.

The DA also praised local law enforcement.

“It is by definition a very difficult job,” he said. “And that’s never been lost on me, of what they do, the danger they confront. The guys I’ve known over the years, they do it everyday, and they don’t whine about it, they just keep doing it. It’s something every citizen ought to stop and think about — and I think most of ’em do.”



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