An Alabama police officer who fatally shot a suicidal man was convicted of murder on Friday.
Huntsville police officer William “Ben” Darby, faces 20 years to life in prison for the slaying of Jeffrey Parker in 2018, the Washington Examiner reported.
Prosecutors said that the shooting was unjustified and that Darby “had no business being a police officer,” but Darby’s attorneys argued that Parker was threatening himself and officers at the scene.
Officer says man was threatening officers
Parker had called police to his home and said he intended to kill himself. When they arrived, they found Parker with a gun to his head. Darby shot Parker with a shotgun.
The mayor of Huntsville and Darby’s fellow officers criticized the guilty verdict, saying that Darby made a difficult judgment call when he pulled the trigger. Police chief Mark McMurray said that the local police were in “the first stages of shock” at the conviction.
“While we thank the jury for their service in this difficult case, I do not believe Officer Darby is a murderer,” he said. “Officers are forced to make split-second decisions every day, and Officer Darby believed his life and the lives of other officers were in danger. Any situation that involves a loss of life is tragic. Our hearts go out to everyone involved.”
Mayor Tommy Battle said that Darby “has the same appeal rights as any other citizen and is entitled to exercise those rights.”
Defendant to appeal
The jury reached its verdict after just two days of deliberations. Another officer, Genisha Pegues, had testified that she was talking to Parker on the phone and that he didn’t pose a threat.
Parker’s family expressed gratitude for the verdict, saying they hope it encourages police to change how they respond to people with mental health problems.
“We’re extremely grateful for the verdict,” said the family attorney, Martin Weinberg. “We appreciate the district attorney’s office for the leadership and courage as well as the jury for their service.”
Darby, 28, will appeal the verdict, his lawyer said. He was released from jail on $100,000 bond.
The verdict comes as tensions around policing, crime, and race remain high nationwide, with some calling for police to be defunded and replaced with social workers.