A police officer in Huntsville, Ala., was convicted of murder on Friday for fatally shooting a man who had called 911 to report that he was suicidal and who was holding a gun to his head when the police arrived, prosecutors said.
The officer, William Darby, who had been strongly defended by the Police Department and cleared of wrongdoing by a city review board, will face 20 years to life in prison when he is sentenced for the killing of Jeffrey Parker, 49, on April 3, 2018, according to prosecutors.
The verdict stunned city leaders, who had maintained that Officer Darby was justified in using deadly force. The Huntsville City Council had voted to dedicate $125,000 in public money for the officer’s criminal defense, according to AL.com. And police officers throughout Alabama had been watching the case because of how frequently they respond to mental health crises.
WSFA, a local television station.
Officer Darby’s lawyer, Robert Tuten, contended that Officer Darby had not been the initial aggressor and had been protecting not only himself but his fellow officers, WFSA reported. After the verdict on Friday, Mr. Tuten vowed to appeal.
“To say that people are shocked by this verdict would be a big understatement,” Mr. Tuten said at a news conference. “This was a very important case to Alabama law enforcement,” he added, and could affect the way officers throughout the state respond to people with guns and threats of suicide.