HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — A Madison County judge, on August 27, ordered the public release of police body camera video used as evidence in the murder trial of then-Huntsville Police Department officer William “Ben” Darby.
Darby was convicted in May of murder and received a 25-year prison sentence on August 20. He was found guilty in the fatal on-duty shooting of Jeffery Parker at Parker’s home on Deramus Avenue in April 2018.
The video from Darby’s body camera used in the trial is below.
Parker had called 911 saying he planned to shoot himself.
The videos ordered released by Circuit Judge Donna Pate include the perspectives of three officers who responded to the scene. The three officers – in order of arrival – were Genisha Pegues, Justin Beckles and Darby.
The videos show Pegues talking to Parker, asking him why he wants to shoot himself. Beckles, second on the scene, ultimately was behind Pegues and Darby when Darby fired his shotgun.
Officer Beckles’ video used in the trial is below.
Darby’s video includes his arrival at the scene, his decision to grab a shotgun, his running to the house and from there, his yelling at Pegues to lift her gun up and point it at Parker.
Parker had a gun to his own head, which he didn’t move, despite pleas from Pegues and Beckles, and multiple shouted commands from Darby in the seconds before he fired.
The video shows that Darby was in the house roughly 11 seconds before the shot. He testified he acted to protect himself and Pegues, who he said was not behind cover and was vulnerable if Parker turned the gun on her.
Pegues told investigators Parker was calm, and she testified he told her he wouldn’t hurt her. Beckles testified that Pegues was not in a safe position when talking to Parker.
Pegues was directed by HPD leadership to take remedial training after the incident. Pegues and Beckles are no longer with HPD.
Officer Pegues’ video used in the trial is below.
Darby was cleared in the shooting by a Huntsville Police Department shooting review board, which found he acted within department policy. Huntsville Police Department Deputy Chief DeWayne McCarver testified at Darby’s trial that the officer had acted according to his HPD training and fired because the armed Parker failed to drop his gun, as ordered.
Prosecutors argued that Darby killed Parker without justification, that Parker posed no imminent threat – as required under the state’s self-defense law – and he was not aggressive or hostile.
The judge’s order releasing the video came after a request first by AL.com and later by News 19. We argued that the body cam videos were paid for by taxpayers and the case was of significant public interest and controversy.
Darby has been publicly supported by Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle and Huntsville Police Chief Mark McMurray. The Huntsville City Council agreed in early 2019 to pay up to $125,00 for Darby’s defense. That payment has been made, the city told News 19.
The City of Huntsville declined to release the body cam video before the trial, then asked the judge on August 27 to not release the videos to the public. The city’s attorneys argued the videos are an investigative recording and said they were non-public, privileged, law enforcement records.
News 19 has processed each of the officer’s body cam videos. They have been edited to remove cursing that took place that day. We have also obscured Parker’s injured face after the shooting.
News 19 made no other changes to the video.