Former Alabama Police Officer Sentenced to 25 Years For Shooting Suicidal Man

Madison County Jail

There is a notable criminal case out of Alabama this week after a judge sentenced former Huntsville police officer William “Ben” Darby to 25 years in prison for shooting and killing a suicidal man who was holding a gun to his own head. Jeffrey Parker never pointed the gun at Darby or his fellow officers before he was shot by Darby.

Darby and his fellow officers responded to a 911 call that Parker was armed and planned to kill himself.  Video of the shooting from police body cameras was introduced at trial. Officers Genisha Peques and Justin Beckles arrived first at the scene.

The video showed Darby grabbing a shotgun from his patrol vehicle and running into the home. He immediately yelled at Pegues for putting herself in danger by not pointing her weapon at Parker and failing to take a cover position.  He is heard yelling for Pegues to “point your f**king gun at him.” Darby repeatedly shouted for Parker to drop his gun and then fired the fatal shot 11 seconds after entering the house. Darby said at trial that, after he ordered Parker to drop the gun, he heard Parker say “no” and saw him shrug and shake his head.

Darby testified that he feared seeing “one of my officers” get hurt and fired for their protection.

Notably, the Huntsville Police Department review board cleared Darby of wrongdoing in May 2018. However, the Madison County District Attorney’s office brought the case to a grand jury and Darby was indicted for murder. Nevertheless, Huntsville police captain (and head of the Huntsville Police Department’s training unit) Dewayne McCarver testified during the trial that Darby acted appropriately under the circumstances. Many have noted that a suspect sitting on a couch can quickly turn a gun from his own head to toward the nearby officers.

The family and others have insisted that Parker could have been “talked down” and the situation defused by just speaking with him.  Indeed, they say that Peques was doing that when Darby entered and then shot Parker 11 seconds later.

The prosecution is relatively rare given the decision of the police board and the judgment of witnesses like McCarver. However, the merits of the decision would be difficult to appeal. Such shootings are based on the “totality of the circumstances” and the jury was clearly swayed by the fact that the gun was pointed at Parker’s own head and the shooting occurred within seconds of Darby’s arrival. Moreover, the position Peques indicated that she did not believe that she was in immediate danger though Darby was likely correct that police training dictates a defensive position of cover with the gun pointed at the suspect.

Defense counsel asked for a 20 year sentence, the minimum under Alabama law.

Darby was immediately taken into custody at sentencing and will now appeal.

15 thoughts on “Former Alabama Police Officer Sentenced to 25 Years For Shooting Suicidal Man”

  1. If Ashli Babbitt black half of America would be burned to the ground by now… and the media would be cheering it on.

  2. And yet Ashli Babbitt’s shooter is not charged, does not face department discipline, and isn’t even named publicly.

    Two standards of justice is no justice at all.

  3. What if the Suspect had decided to commit Suicide by Cop and turned his firearm and shot one or all of the Officers and got shot dead in the process?

    Who would have been right and who would be wrong then?

    These kinds of decisions are made under horrible stress in mere seconds…..and we can sit. here at our leisure and second guess the Officer with no risk of harm or repudiation.

    That is why Key Board Heroes bore me to death.

    We may not like the outcome…but we have to remember the circumstances under which Police Officers have to operate….they make mistakes and sometimes die because of it.

    Do you?

    I do not fault the Professor….but I surely fault those who plague the rest of us with their drivel.

  4. What a terribly sad case. You hear so often of police officers risking life and limb to save suicidal people. It’s tragic that this person seemed to escalate the situation to its tragic end.

  5. This is a no brainier.

    The judge should be thrown in prison for dangerously, egregiously and incoherently nullifying, not the Constitution or statutes, but rationality, common sense and reality.

    The cop’s partner should be fired or ostracized to the point of resignation by other officers for failing to immediately address the danger an unstable man with a gun constitutes.

    A splint second change in direction of the perp’s psychosis or that situation could have meant the death of one or both officers, then this article would have been written slightly differently.

    Police order an armed man to release the gun.

    If he doesn’t, he must be immediately neutralized as a threat.

    The issue is not the cop.

    The issue is the threat to the public and the threat to the good citizens of Alabama.

  6. Do you think he still has the smirk on his face, displayed in his mug shot? Momma must be proud of her little convicted felonious piglet.

    I have no scientific data but I really wish someone would do a scientific study of pigs convicted of felonious crimes of violence against the public: is their average height significantly below average? Build? I suspect there’s a lot of Napoleon complex involved in these cases. Little men with big guns and badges getting their revenge for the beatings they took in school.

  7. I don’t know if I would call it “Murder”…..Manslaughter perhaps.

    The first two Officers were doing the right and wrong things simultaneously…..presenting themselves as targets by not backing off and taking up some sort of cover….but trying to de-escalate the situation.

    The Defendant also did both the right and wrong things simultaneously….wanting to get his Officers to move to safer positions and take up a more defensive stance with weapons drawn and pointing at the Suspect…..but not appreciating the information the first two Officers had by means of their interaction with the Suspect.

    Had the Defendant pointed the Shotgun at the Suspect and provided overwatch for the two Officers dealing with the Suspect….he could have protected the Officers and ensured the Suspect could not engage any of the Officers.

    Killing the Suspect absent any aggressive action by the Suspect would be a gross error in judgement in my view.

    Any movement of the Suspect’s firearm towards any of the three Officers would have justified the shooting….merely refusing to lay down the weapon does not.

    Did that happen?

    What does the video show?

    1. Ralph Chappell Sounds about right. But as your last comment suggests the Prof’s post does not by itself provide enough information. From what is provided it strikes me that the ambiguity of the officers’ evaluation evidences no one “best” tactical response for controlling the situation, and that the range of response is officer dependent (experience, personality, education / training). That said rushing into the situation aggressively strikes me as exacerbating the conflict both among all present and in Parker’s head; and heightening the imminent danger to the other officers during those initial seconds. Given departmental reviews cleared Darby; the DA’s decision to convene a grand jury suggests “political motivation”. … Bottom-line Darby should likely have been forced to resign, but a conviction for “murder” (the post doesn’t state what he was convicted of) and 25 years seems unjust. The Governor should pardon him or grant clemency (which would still leave him with a firearm defect).

      1. There’s as much evidence that the police were only protecting one of their own as is evidence for DA political motivation. (What’s with the quotes BTW?)

        Let the pig rot in prison, telling inmates lies of his police heroism.. I hope he gets general population or if not solitary; not hoping the solitary causes him to go insane but if that happens the irony is real: he can’t be in GP because of the safety risk because he’s a convicted pig, so the only alternate is solitary with the insanity risk. This is something pigs should think hard about before they commit crimes like this pig did: obey the law.

        Calling the police is often the worst thing to do, as this case proves.

        Hopefully he dies quickly, thus saving taxpayers a lot of money.

  8. Shooting him was ok. The guy was a threat to self and others. Get it over with. Same with those capital rioters.

    1. The unarmed woman was a clear and progressive threat, and her elective abortion was a likely trigger and platform for the dysfunction that followed.

      As for the alleged act of self-abortion, it could have been his Choice, but it turned out to be his Choice… a progressive path and grade.

    2. I’m sure your words will comfort the convicted pig for the next quarter C of hard prison time…..NOT!

    3. Clearly, Mr. Parker was a threat to himself. Left to his own devices he might have killed himself. Is the proper response of police to a threatened suicide to kill the person who is threatening to kill themselves? Of course not: the response to a threatened suicide is to prevent the threatened killing, not to carry out the killing. In other words, Mr. Parker’s threat to his own life was not an excuse for the police to take his life themselves. The permissible excuse, if any, is that of Mr. Parker being a threat to others. Some people do take others down with them as they kill themselves, so that is a legitimate avenue to examine in detail. The facts as given by Prof. Turley contain no basis for concluding that Mr. Parker was a threat to others, but the facts given by Prof. Turley may not be all the facts as they would have been perceived by a reasonable police officer at the time. Taking a defensive position would be fine, but purposefully killing a person who is not reasonably perceived as being a threat to others is not. Not enough information is presented here to justify Officer Darby’s action to kill Mr. Parker, but there might be additional facts not presented here to justify the killing. In any case, however, that persons in Washington, D.C., engaged in riotous activity is completely irrelevant any of the activities here.

  9. We’re rapidly approaching the day where the ROE for Law enforcement Officers will be that the Officer must not fire the first shot. (Shades of Vietnam)

  10. How terrible for Mr. Parker and his family! I hope Mr. Darby’s sentence gives them some closure. My condolences.

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