Lieutenant under investigation for holding fundraiser for an officer cleared in a shooting then charged with murder

Share:

HUNTSVILLE, AL – The Huntsville Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division is investigating the department’s training director for sending a department-wide email seeking support for William Ben Darby, the officer convicted of murder earlier this year.

Lt. Tesla Hughes sent an email on Tuesday advising officers of t-shirts, sweatshirts, and pullovers available for purchase as a fundraiser for the imprisoned officer, who was convicted earlier this year in the 2018 shooting death of a suicidal man.

In the email, Lt. Hughes attached information for The Blue Justice Project’s fundraiser to support Darby. The Blue Justice Project was founded by Lisa Mearkle, a former Pennsylvania police officer who was acquitted of murder for shooting an unarmed subject in 2015.

Lt. Hughes wrote in the email to about 700 other officers:

“If any of you are interested in getting a shirt to help support Darby’s plight, please fill out the below information and email it back to me….”

The fundraiser attachment to Lt. Hughes’s email Darby was “convicted because of “unethical and malicious prosecution” and that he received an “excessive” sentence.

After the email went out, Police Chief Mark McMurray issued a statement calling the email “unauthorized,” and said Internal Affairs would be investigating and would “respond accordingly.”

In the statement, McMurray wrote:

“There is no organized effort within the police department to fundraise or otherwise for William Darby. The attachment within the email and the information presented on it are not affiliated with the Huntsville Police Department.

“HPD will not condone any inappropriate use of City property, time or resources.”

The Chief said that Lt. Hughes was asked to recall the email.

Within an hour of Lt. Hughes sending the email out, the department’s head of Internal Affairs sent a follow-up email warning officers about using department equipment and time to assist in the fundraiser. Capt. Jonathan Ware wrote in the email, “…please refrain from further solicitation.

In May, Darby was found guilty of murder for the shooting death of Jeffery Parker, 49, at his home on Deramus Avenue in April 2018.

Darby responded to a 911 call reporting a man was armed and suicidal on April 3, 2018. Officers Genisha Peques and Justin Beckles also responded, arriving first.

When the officers arrived at the home, they found Parker, 49, sitting on a couch with a gun to his own head. Pegues and Beckles began talking to Parker, who was still holding a gun to his head.

Body camera video of the incident showed Darby grabbing a shotgun from his patrol vehicle and running into the home.

Darby testified during his trial that he had taken over the situation because Pegues had put herself in danger by not pointing her weapon at Parker and failing to take a cover position.

Darby walked up to the house and shouted for Pegues to “point your fucking gun at him,” bodycam video showed. Darby repeatedly shouted for Parker to drop his gun. Darby fired the fatal shot 11 seconds after entering the house, according to the video.

Darby testified that Pegues, who was talking with Parker at the scene, was in a vulnerable position and Darby needed to take action to protect her.

 

Last month, Madison County Circuit Judge Donna Pate sentenced Darby to 25 years in prison.

Darby had been cleared of the shooting by the department’s investigation, but the Madison County District Attorney’s Office took the case to a grand jury regardless. Tim Gann, chief deputy district attorney, commented after the sentencing:

“I think that’s the worst thing we face is making that decision, because we do understand it’s a dangerous job, we do understand that they’re in harm’s way.

“This is not about training. He (Darby) was trained properly. This is about going outside of the training and violating Alabama law.”

Despite taking a hard stand on Lt. Hughes and the fundraiser, the City and police chief have been supportive of Darby throughout the trial.

Chief McMurray released a statement following the verdict in Darby’s trial saying the department was “in the first stages of shock”:

“While we thank the jury for their service in this difficult case, I do not believe Officer Darby is a murderer.

“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.”

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle also spoke out against the verdict:

“We recognize this was a hard case with a lot of technical information to process. Officer Darby followed the appropriate safety protocols in his response on the scene.

“He was doing what he was trained to do in the line of duty. Fortunately, Officer Darby has the same appeal rights as any other citizen and is entitled to exercise those rights.”

Robert Tuten, Daby’s defense attorney, released a statement:

“Everyone is shocked by the jury’s verdict While we appreciate their hard work and will give their verdict the respect that it deserves, we still disagree with their decision.  Officer Ben Darby will appeal this verdict.  Once reviewed at the Appellate level, this verdict will not stand. Officer Darby’s case is extremely important to all Alabama Law Enforcement. 

“This case will clarify Alabama law regarding on-duty police shootings and will impact the way law enforcement protect Alabamians and perform their duties.  We look forward to the appeal of this case.” 

Do you want to join our private family of first responders and supporters?  Get unprecedented access to some of the most powerful stories that the media refuses to show you.  Proceeds get reinvested into having active, retired and wounded officers, their families and supporters tell more of these stories.  Click to check it out.

LET Unity

Police officer who shot armed man in shoot that was ruled justified gets 25 years in jail

August 23, 2021

 

HUNTSVILLE, AL-  In an update to a story we brought you in May, a former police officer with the Huntsville Police Department received a 25-year prison sentence last Friday relative to the shooting of a suicidal man, a shooting that was determined by his agency to have been justified.

According to AL.com, former Officer William Darby, 28, was convicted of murder in May after two hours of deliberations in the shooting death of Jeff Parker, 49 in April 2018.

When the verdict was first delivered by a Madison County jury, it left local police “in the first stages of shock,” the outlet reported.

Darby had been ordered to be taken to the Madison County jail, however he was released on a $100,000 bond just hours later, pending his sentencing.

That sentencing came last Friday when Darby received the bad news.

Darby pleaded for leniency claiming he had no evil intent when he shot Parker, however prosecutors said that Darby’s refusal to admit wrongdoing and the “gravity of what he did to [Parker]” entitled him to a long sentence, the Associated Press reported.

The incident started when Parker called 911 on April 3, 2018 and told a police dispatcher he planned to kill himself, and that he was armed.

Two officers arrived at Parker’s home in the western part of Huntsville and found him sitting on a couch holding a gun to his head. The first officer who arrived at the scene, Genisha Pegues actually testified against Darby, claiming she had the situation under control and was deescalating when Darby arrived.

According to Darby, he shot Parker in self defense and defense of other officers, fearing Parker might shoot them. Body camera evidence showed Darby remove a shotgun from his patrol vehicle and run into the home. Less than one minute later, Parker was shot in the face.

After the shooting, WHNT reported, the Huntsville Police Department’s shooting review board investigated the incident and determined the shooting was justified, writing that “all officers involved performed within Huntsville police policies, procedures, and training.”

 

Despite that, the Madison County DA took the case before a grand jury and got the indictment against Darby for murder charges, WHNT said.

Darby testified that he had to take control of the situation from Pegues, although she was senior, because he believed she was putting her life in danger by talking to Parker.

Video showed Darby walking up to the house yelling for Pegues to “point your fu*king gun at him!” bodycam video showed. The fatal shot was fired some 11 seconds after Darby entered the house.

During the trial, use-of-force experts, police tactics trainers and Huntsville police officials all testified that Darby had used proper force for the situation and complied with department policies.

When the verdict was delivered, Huntsville Police Chief Mark McMurray expressed shock at the verdict, stating his belief that Darby was not a murderer.

“We are in the first stages of shock,” McMurray said in a statement emailed to the media. “While we thank the jury for their service in this difficult case, I do not believe Officer Darby is a murderer.”

Continuing, 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.”

The actions of Darby were supported both by the police department as well as the Huntsville City Council, who dedicated $125,000 to Darby’s criminal defense.

In supporting the first $75,000 in funds, the city resolution noted that the shooting was “within the line and scope of his duty.”

At the time, Huntsville’s mayor Tommy Battle also said the shooting was within policy and disagreed with the pursuit of criminal charges by the district attorney’s office.

“While I respect the jury’s opinion, I disagree with the verdict,” Battle said.

“We recognize this was a hard case with a lot of technical information to process. Officer Darby followed the appropriate safety protocols in his response on the scene.

He was doing what he was trained to do in the line of duty. Fortunately, Officer Darby has the same appeal rights as any other citizen and is entitled to exercise those rights.”

The district attorney, however disagreed with the assessments of the chief and mayor and said that evidence “was off the charts. He [Darby] was not justified in any way.”

District Attorney Rob Broussard brushed off widespread criticism of the Huntsville Police Department.

“We have as good of law enforcement as any community could ever hope to have,” he said.

Broussard claimed that Parker had shown “zero hostility or aggression” during the encounter and noted that Pegues was doing what would be expected of a police officer.

“She was trying to help this man.” Speaking to Darby, he said, “He had maybe no business being a police officer truthfully. He was not wired for it…pretty clear.”

After Friday’s sentencing, a friend of Parkers spoke about the case.

“Jeff was in a mental state. Jeff had issues. Jeff asked for help,” said Bill Parks, a friend of Parker’s.

He added that the situation was under control until Darby entered and shot Parker.

After the sentencing, Darby was immediately remanded to the Madison County Jail; he is not eligible for an appeal bond, although his attorneys plan to appeal.

While prosecutors pushed for the 25-year sentence, Darby’s defense attorneys pushed for 20 years—the minimum under Alabama law.

Robert Tuten, Darby’s defense attorney said they will appeal the case, according to International Business Times.

“This is obviously an extremely important case—not only for Ben and his family, not only for the Parker family—but for law enforcement in the state of Alabama,” Tuten said at a press conference.

“This case is going to have a huge impact on how police officers enforce the law and how they do their jobs,” he added.

Tim Gann, chief deputy district attorney for Madison county said Darby’s actions were “so far out of the norm that he’s got to be held accountable for that.’

“This is not about training…[Darby] was trained properly. This is about going outside of the training and violating Alabama law,” Gann said.

Darby, who remained on the city’s payroll for over two months after his conviction finally submitted his resignation in July.

Tuten said he looked forward to appealing the case and believes the verdict “won’t stand.”

“Everyone is shocked by the jury’s verdict,” Tuten said in a statement.

Parker’s family is asking for the U.S. Department of Justice to step in and “take appropriate action” against the Huntsville Police Department.

With anti-police zealot Merrick Garland at the helm, one can imagine a pattern or practice investigation of the department is right around the corner.

  

 

 

Want to make sure you never miss a story from Law Enforcement Today?  With so much “stuff” happening in the world on social media, it’s easy for things to get lost.  

Make sure you click “following” and then click “see first” so you don’t miss a thing!  (See image below.)  Thanks for being a part of the LET family!
 
Facebook Follow First
Share:
Related Posts