An Alabama police officer was forced to open fire on an armed mentally ill person in Huntsville- and is now being indicted on a murder charge.
HPD Officer William Darby was indicted earlier today for the killing of Jeffrey Parker, who called police on April 3, claiming he was suicidal and armed.
When Darby and several other officers arrived at the scene, Parker was ordered to drop his weapon. Upon realizing Parker would not relinquish his firearm and fearing for the safety of himself and fellow officers, Darby opened fire, mortally wounding the suspect.
Darby was cleared in the shooting by department review board.
Huntsville Police Chief Mark McMurray told AL.com and other media outlets that Darby is on administrative duty pending the outcome of his trial, adding that the officer 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.”
Meanwhile, Parker family Attorney Martin Weinberg told AL that 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.”
Discussing mental illness at the press conference, McMurray noted that the nation as a whole is struggling with cases of mentally ill persons.
“Suicide and mental illness are a national epidemic,” the chief said. “Huntsville is not immune from the consequences of these personal tragedies. As a country and as a community, we are all struggling with these mental health issues.”
Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle defended Darby, noting that he had adhered to his training.
“Officer Darby, you have our full support,” he said in a statement. “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.”
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