Murder trial for officer delayed pending immunity appeal
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) — The murder trial for a Huntsville police officer who shot a suicidal gunman last year is being delayed so he can appeal a judge’s ruling that he’s not immune from prosecution.
Officer William “Ben” Darby was supposed to go on trial Monday. A grand jury indicted him for murder despite his being cleared by a police review board.
Darby said he followed police procedure and his shooting was justified.
Video evidence shows 49-year-old Jeffrey Parker was holding a gun to his head inside his home as officer Genisha Pegues tried to calm him down and another officer, Justin Beckles, stood in the doorway.
Darby then entered the home, yelled at her to point her gun at Parker, and within 10 seconds, fatally shot Parker in the face with his shotgun.
Officer Pegues testified that Parker had told her he wasn’t going to hurt her, and that she never felt threatened. Darby, though, said he feared Pegues wasn’t protecting herself and should have withdrawn to set up a perimeter and wait for a standoff negotiator. Pegues agreed the video showed she had taken her gun off Parker, in violation of her training, but otherwise said she felt she had followed police rules.
Video shows the three officers told Parker seven times to drop his gun. Parker refused and shrugged his shoulders. Darby said that shrug made him believe Parker was about to shoot an officer, so he fired.
A video interview between Darby and a Huntsville police investigator was played in court. Three days after shooting, Darby said: “I regret it became necessary, but I don’t regret my action.”
Beckles, who is now a police officer at the U.S. Army’s Redstone Arsenal, also testified that he did not believe Pegues had control of the situation. He said Parker was not going to drop his weapon. Beckles told the judge it was “inevitable we needed to eliminate the threat from non-compliance.”
Huntsville is paying for the officer’s defense. Police Chief Mark McMurray and Mayor Tommy Battle said Darby did nothing wrong.
Darby’s on desk duty while the charges are pending. Beckles left the force and works as a police officer at the U.S. Army’s Redstone Arsenel. Pegues was sent to remedial training and reassigned as a school resource officer.
Information from: WAAY-TV, http://www.waaytv.com/