A police department in Alabama is continuing to pay the salary of an officer who was convicted of murder in May for fatally shooting a suicidal man in the face with a shotgun, AL.com reported Thursday.
According to the report, Officer William Ben Darby, who is currently out on bond pending a sentencing hearing, remains employed by the Huntsville Police Department even though his law enforcement certification was stripped after a jury unanimously found him guilty of murdering 49-year-old Jeffery Parker in April 2018.
Through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, the outlet was able to obtain records showing that for the last two months, Darby had been on sick leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), a labor law providing job protection and unpaid leave for employees’ qualified family and medical needs. Those records show that Darby has been receiving a bi-weekly pre-tax paycheck of $2,162.
AL.com also discovered that a message sent from Huntsville Police Chief Mark McMurray‘s email account asking employees to donate leave time to an unidentified employee who was suffering from an unidentified medical condition. The email was sent on May 20—the same day that the city of Huntsville announced that Darby had been placed on leave.
“We have an employee who would like to receive donated leave but has elected to leave their name and medical condition off the request,” the email stated. “If you would like to donate leave, please complete the attached Request to Donate Leave Form for an anonymous recipient and submit to my office for processing.”
The publication said that Darby, who was convicted on May 7, appears to be the unnamed employee. However, McMurray told AL.com that he did not know the employee’s identity and denied ever sending the email. When shown that the email was sent from his account, McMurray said it could have been sent by his secretary.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, a 20-year veteran of the department told AL.com the email was the first request to donate accrued time to a coworker he’d seen in his career.
As previously reported by Law&Crime, McMurray slammed the jury’s unanimous decision to convict Darby in May, saying he didn’t believe that Darby was 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.”
Officer Genisha Pegues testified at trial that she and officer Justin Beckles arrived at Parker’s home before Darby arrived on the scene. Pegues saw Parker holding a gun to his head. She testified that she tried to “de-escalate the situation” while “standing in a doorway,” Huntsville CBS affiliate WHNT reported during a synopsis of the testimony (we’re quoting the television station, not the testimony verbatim). Her gun was “drawn but not pointed at Parker.”
Darby arrived with a shotgun. According to Pegues, Darby “yelled at Parker to drop his gun” and “yelled at her to point her gun at Parker,” the report continued (again, quoting the station, not the testimony).
Body camera footage quoted by AL.com indicated that Darby ordered Pegues to “point your fucking gun at him.”
“Pegues said Parker remained calm after Darby arrived and kept his gun pointed at his own head,” the TV station’s reporting continued. “She testified that she told Parker to lower his weapon because she didn’t want anything to happen to him, and Darby shot him in the face seconds later.”
Darby said in an official statement to his department that he initially believed Pegues didn’t have adequate cover and wasn’t properly protecting herself. He said in that internal interview that he wasn’t going to “second guess” his actions. Body camera footage showed that he was only in the house for 11 seconds before he fired the fatal shot.
Parker’s estate is currently suing Darby and the city in a wrongful death lawsuit.
AL.com is the shared website of three Alabama newspapers: the Birmingham News, the Huntsville Times, and the Press-Register of Mobile.
Aaron Keller contributed to this report.
[mugshot via the Madison County, Ala. Jail]
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]