Trending Topics

Ala. cop pleads guilty to manslaughter, will serve probation after death of suicidal man

Last year, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals sent the case back for a new trial, saying the trial court made errors during jury instructions


Darby was sentenced to 20 years, but the sentence was split and reversed for him to serve three years of probation.

Lee Roop

By Lee Roop and Ashley Remkus

HUNTSVILLE, Al. — Former Huntsville police officer William Ben Darby today pleaded guilty to manslaughter and will serve three years of probation for shooting and killing a man threatening suicide five years ago.

Darby was sentenced to 20 years, but the sentence was split and reversed for him to serve three years of probation. As long as he doesn’t violate the terms of his probation, he will avoid going back to prison. Madison County Circuit Judge Alan Mann accepted the plea and sentenced Darby during a surprise hearing this morning.

Darby shot and killed Jeff Parker on April 3, 2018, after Parker called 911, threatening to shoot himself in his own home.

A Madison County jury in 2021 found Darby guilty of murder and a judge sentenced him to 25 years in prison. But after serving about 20 months, Darby was released from prison because an appeals court overturned the conviction.

The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals last year sent the case back for a new trial, saying the trial court made errors during jury instructions.

Darby and his lawyers reached the plea deal with prosecutors to avoid a retrial that was scheduled to happen in December.

Martin Weinberg, attorney for Parker’s family, said they will continue their civil lawsuit against Darby and the city of Huntsville. “The family is relieved the criminal case is over,” Weinberg said. “The guilty plea indicates Darby taking responsibility.”

District Attorney Rob Broussard, who was in the courtroom for the plea, said afterward it was “essentially the same deal we offered four years ago at the inception of all this.” Broussard said the plea offer then and now was in recognition of the job police do every day.

“We’re the first to admit it’s hard job,” Broussard said. “It’s not like a change of heart. The key element here is when somebody takes responsibility for their actions. Darby’s plea puts it in a different light.

“He messed up,” said Broussard. “He’s owned up to it and this is a proper result in my mind and a good resolution to the case.”

On the day of the shooting in 2018, Parker called 911 and said that he was armed and suicidal. Police went to Parker’s home in west Huntsville and found him sitting on a couch with a gun to his head. The first officer to arrive testified against Darby at the murder trial, telling the jury that she tried to de-escalate the situation and keep Parker from taking his own life.

Darby, the third officer to arrive, testified that he had to take over the situation from the senior officer because he believed she was putting herself in danger by talking to Parker. He told the jury that he shot Parker in defense of himself and two other officers because he feared the man might shoot them with what later turned out to be a flare gun.

Body camera video shows Darby grab a shotgun from his patrol car, sprint to the house and shout for Parker to drop his gun. Darby fired the fatal shot 11 seconds after entering the house, the video shows.

Broussard said that the case was “without a doubt” one of the hardest of his career “because there’s nothing more unsavory or unpleasant than having to hold accountable folks who are doing a job that is so necessary, that we feel so aligned with. I could not adequately express the admiration I have for the folks in the profession. We’re like one big family, but every so often something will come up that you have to call it like it is and hold someone accountable to it. And there’s nothing pleasant about it.”

©2023 Advance Local Media LLC. Visit
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.