Huntsville police officer indicted on murder charge
HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - A Huntsville police officer has been indicted on a murder charge.
Court documents and the Huntsville Police Department confirm officer William Darby has been indicted for murder in the shooting death of 49-year-old Jeffrey Parker on April 3.
Officials confirm Darby, 25, shot and killed Parker after responding to a suicide call at Parker's home. Officers say Parker had a gun and refused to drop it and verbally engaged the three responding officers.
An incident review board cleared all three officers of any wrongdoing before the case was presented to a grand jury. The board found that all officers involved had performed within Huntsville Police Department policies, procedures and training.
The city attorney's office said that review board included representatives from the Madison County district attorney's office, Huntsville City Legal, Huntsville police training staff and members from the Huntsville Citizen Advisory Council. The case review including video footage, physical evidence and officer testimony.
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"Officer Darby performed his duties in accordance with his training. He is by no means a 'murderer'." Huntsville Police Chief Mark McMurray said in a statement. Click here to read his full statement.
Madison County District Attorney Robert Broussard said that his office had great concern over the incident and decided to present the case to a Madison County grand jury. The grand jury then returned an indictment against Darby.
"I am not going to go into particulars but usually what you are looking at whether an officer reasonably feared for his life before he was forced to take deadly physical force, and on these particular facts of the case we had concern that this was not a justified shooting and because of that we put it to a grand jury," Broussard said at Friday's press conference.
"I've always had the highest regards for the men that put on the badge and do a hard job in this city and we as citizens of this city are very lucky to have the kind of dedicated police officers that we do," Broussard said.
The trial is scheduled for Oct. 29. The attorneys for this case will meet with the presiding judge to provide a status update on Sept. 14.
Darby was booked into jail Friday morning. He has been released on a $40,000 bond.
The Huntsville Police Department confirms that Darby has been relieved of his duties and will remain in an administrative capacity pending the outcome of the trial.
Police spokesman Lt. Michael Johnson said Darby has been with the department for two years and remains on duty. His gun and badge have been taken but he is still an officer, Johnson said.
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"The Parker family was surprised but absolutely pleased that the grand jury issued an indictment. This incident centers on the growing concern about the mistreatment of the mentally ill by law enforcement. We have to put more resources into training law enforcement on how to deal with the mentally ill," said Martin Weinberg, the attorney for the Parker family.
Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle came to the support of the officer with a statement released after both news conferences:
Our hearts and sympathies are with the Parker family as they are forced to relive this time of loss. And to Officer Darby, you have our full support. As a valued and responsible member of our force, he acted in accordance with his training. Please accord him the same presumption of innocence as all Americans are entitled.
The Fraternal Order of Police also gave a statement:
TL Blakemore Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 6 supports the Huntsville Police Department and the City of Huntsville in their efforts to see that Officer William Darby receives due process as an employee and through the upcoming judicial process.
Jack Humphreys, a neighbor of Parker's since 1990, spoke with WAFF 48 News about what happened. He said Parker was going to be married just days after the suicide call.
"I wanted to see the right thing done for Jeff, whatever it may be, because I knew what happened just wasn't logical. It didn't seem right. I could think of a lot of other ways they could've handled that, and it wasn't," Humphreys said. "I still have wrestled with that since then, why they didn't do it the other way."
Parker's fiancee, Michele Louthan, was home at the time of the shooting. She said Parker was heading to the store and the last thing she heard him say was "I love you." After he went downstairs, she took her medicine and went back to sleep.
Louthan said the next 15 minutes are a blur. She said she was woken up by a loud boom, which turned out to be the fatal shot. During that time, she believes Parker had some type of mental breakdown and called police himself.
She said Parker suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder following a home invasion some years back.
Louthan said she finds peace that people are still looking into the case. She said due process is necessary and that she is praying for the officer's family.
Humphreys said Louthan was "hysterical" the night it happened.
"They were in there. They just came right in. They didn't knock on the door. They just went right in. A few seconds later, we heard a shot, and we waited to see what was happening. The fiancee came out and she was screaming, 'He's dead. He's dead. Why would he do that to himself?' Well later on we found out that it was the police that actually shot him, that it wasn't him shooting himself," said Humphreys.
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