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Huntsville City Council Votes to Fund Officer’s Defense for Murder

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(Huntsville Police Department)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – A Huntsville police officer has been indicted on a murder charge for the fatal shooting of a 49-year-old man during a mental health call.

Officer William Darby, 25, a two-year employee of the Huntsville Police Department, was indicted Friday for the killing of Jeffrey Parker, court records show.

Parker was fatally shot after he called 911 April 3 and said he was suicidal and had a gun, according to the police department. The situation was captured on body camera footage, but that hasn’t been released to the public.

Now, in a somewhat unique move, Huntsville City Council members made a financial decision to help defend Darby in the criminal case.

The council voted 4-0 to use $75,000 towards Darby’s defense, reported WHNT. One council member abstained from the vote.

If the costs exceed that, they will have to come back before the council for review.

A Madison County grand jury indicted Darby in the killing of 49-year-old Jeffery Louis Parker at Parker’s home.  Parker had called 911 saying he was suicidal.

Alabama police officer
Officer William Darby. (Huntsville Police Department)

The indictment is in sharp contrast to the Huntsville Police Department’s review of the case, which found that Darby acted within department policy in the shooting.

As a result of the criminal indictment, Huntsville police Chief Mark McMurray said at a news conference Friday that Darby is on administrative leave pending the outcome of his trial. McMurray didn’t take questions from reporters. Moreover, he walked away from the podium as soon as he finished reading a statement.

Lt. Michael Johnson, a police spokesman said Darby is being paid while he’s on leave, per city policy.

McMurray said Darby is “by no means a murderer.”

“Officer Darby was called upon to make split second decisions in a nightmare scenario, the likes of which most people will never experience,” McMurray said. “His training allowed him and his fellow officer to survive as he rushed bravely, without hesitation, into one of the most volatile and unpredictable situations a police officer is called upon to face.”

However, the prosecutor sees it differently.

“Usually what you’re looking at is whether an officer reasonably feared for his life, before he was forced, to take, to use deadly physical force,” said Madison County District Attorney Rob Broussard. “And on these particular facts of the case, we had concern.”

The body cam footage will shed light on Darby’s decision to use deadly force. But unless it shows elements of murder, the defense will likely have a slew of volunteers willing to offer expert testimony.

Madison County Circuit Court Judge Donna Pate issued a gag order last Monday in the case.

Pate’s order bars law enforcement employees and attorneys and their employees on both sides of the case from making any statements about the case in oral or written form that “they have reasons to believe will be disseminated to the public through written or electronic media or any kind.”

According to Huntsville Police Department, Darby graduated from the Huntsville Police Academy in 2016. He graduated with multiple awards including, being at the top of his class for his shooting accuracy.

Darby also won the overall award in every category in his graduating class, including academics and physical agility. He also received the chief’s award for having the highest ranking in all three categories, reported WAAY.

This year Darby won the Billy Clardy Award for Community Policing, according to the Huntsville City Blog.

Darby was arrested after the indictment and is currently out of jail on bond. The trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 29.

 

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2 Comments

When I was Chief at a small rural department I fought for, and got approved an indemnification policy. The policy covered all Police activity taken whether on duty or off. I was careful to ensure Officers were aware, that they would be legally protected. Officers were also aware that the policy wasn’t to protect them for being reckless or stupid…it was to ensure they had the confidence that they would be backed.

Sounds a lot like a D.A. seaking re-elction to me!

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