KEY POINTS

  • William Ben Darby, 28, was sentenced to 25 years in prison over the death of a suicidal man
  • The former Alabama police officer was convicted of murder for shooting and killing the 49-year-old man
  • His defense said they plan to appeal the decision

A former police officer in Madison County, Alabama, was sentenced to prison Friday for fatally shooting a suicidal man who had a gun to his head in April 2018.

William Ben Darby, 28, was sentenced to 25 years in prison after he was convicted of murder in May for shooting and killing Jeff Parker, 49, AL.com reported.

The former Huntsville Police Department officer shot Parker in his Deramus Avenue home while the latter was pointing a gun to his own head and talking to another officer, a report by News 19 said. Parker had called 911 prior to the incident and told a dispatcher he planned to kill himself.

Darby pleaded for leniency and claimed there was no evil intent when he pulled the trigger, but prosecutors argued during the sentencing hearing that his lack of willingness to admit wrongdoing and the "gravity of what he did to [Parker]" deserved a long sentence, according to the Associated Press.

"Jeff was in a mental state. Jeff had issues. Jeff asked for help," Bill Parks, Parker's friend, was quoted as saying after the sentencing. He added that another police officer had the situation under control until Darby entered and shot Parker within seconds.

Darby was taken from Circuit Judge Donna Pate’s courtroom to the Madison County jail after the hearing, as per AL.com. He reportedly had to serve his sentence immediately as he was not eligible for an appeal bond.

Prosecutors sought a minimum sentence of 25 years in prison for Darby, while his defense asked for 20 years — the minimum sentence under Alabama law.

Robert Tuten, Darby's defense attorney, said they will appeal the case.

"This is obviously an extremely important case - not only for Ben and his family, not only for the Parker family - but for law enforcement in the state of Alabama," Tuten said at a press conference after the hearing.

"This case is going to have a huge impact on how police officers enforce the law and how they do their jobs," the lawyer added.

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle and police chief Mark McMurray reportedly defended Darby's actions, claiming the shooting was justified and that the officer followed police department policy.

Tim Gann, chief deputy district attorney in Madison County, however, explained that Darby's actions were "so far out of the norm that he’s got to be held accountable for that."

"This is not about training... [Darby] was trained properly. This is about going outside of the training and violating Alabama law," Gann said.

Darby reportedly remained on the Huntsville city payroll for more than two months after his conviction, until he resigned in late July.

courtroom-898931_1920 Representation. William Ben Darby, 28, was sentenced to 25 years in prison over the death of Jeff Parker, 49, in April 2018. Photo: Pixabay