A police officer was reportedly fired in West Virginia for allegedly refusing to shoot a black man. Twenty-five-year-old Stephen Mader, a veteran of the United States Marine Corps., has spoken with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about how he was fired from the the Weirton, West Virginia Police Department for refusing to shoot an armed black man. The armed man, Ronald D. Williams Jr., was reportedly looking for a “suicide from a cop”.
Mader answered a distressed call from a woman on May 6, who said that her boyfriend was trying to kill himself. Mader says that he used his training from the police academy and the Marine Corps to try and calm the suspect, Williams Jr., down without the use of excessive force. Mader was then fired later for not taking appropriate measures.
Mader says that he could see that the suspect, 23-year old Ronald “RJ” Williams Jr., had a silver handgun pointed at the ground in right hand. Willams allegedly told the officer, “Just shoot me.”
“I saw then he had a gun, but it was not pointed at me.”
“And I told him, ‘I’m not going to shoot you brother’. I thought I was going to be able to talk to him and de-escalate it. I knew it was a suicide-by-cop.”
At about that time, two other officers walked into the scene. When they saw Williams waving his gun around, one of the officers shot Williams in the head, killing him. It was later established that William’s gun was not loaded.
When Mader returned to work on May 17, he was asked to report to the police chief. Mader quotes Chief Rob Alexander saying the following.
“We’re putting you on administrative leave and we’re going to do an investigation to see if you are going to be an officer here. You put two other officers in danger.”
Mader was given his termination notice on June 7. The notice read “failed to eliminate a threat,” referring to Mader’s refusal to shoot Williams.
This is the first time Stephen Mader has spoken to the media about the incident. The day after the shooting, Hancock County Prosecutor Jim Davis had announced that the shooting had been “justified.” Chief Alexander had reported that the “three officers” were doing well and were back at work.
Mader tells the Post-Gazette that he does not think that the two officers were wrong to shoot Williams since they were unaware of his situation and were reacting to a gun being waved around.
“They did not have the information I did. It’s a shame it happened the way it did, but I don’t think they did anything wrong.”
Mader does however blame his former chief for the way he handled the whole situation.
“It was like [Chief Alexander] was a good guy and the next second he’s throwing me under the bus.”
West Virginia, a “at-will” employment state, didn’t leave any legal recourse on the matter for Mader because he was hired less than a year prior to the incident. Mader says he refused a chance to be allowed to resign, which his lawyers thought would be possible.
“I think I’m right in what I did. I’ll take it to the grave.”
Stephen Mader had served in the United States Marine Corps for four years during which time he did a tour to Afghanistan. Following his service, he moved back to his hometown of Weirton, a city of about 20,000, 36 miles west of Pittsburgh, and took a job as a police officer. Mader is married to his high-school girlfriend and has two kids with her. He is currently studying to receive a commercial truck driving license.
[Feature Image by Weirton West Virginia/Facebook]