One former West Virginia police officer is now saying that he lost his job after he refused to shoot a man that was suicidal. And now, he is suing the city for wrongful termination.
Weirton Police Officer Stephen Mader lost his badge as a result of an incident he responded to on May 6, 2016. That day, officers were called to a scene in the home of R.J. Williams. Williams’ girlfriend had reportedly called 911 after Williams threatened to hurt himself with a knife.
Soon after, Mader arrived at the house and found Williams outside with his hands tied behind his back. Mader gave several orders for Williams to show his hands. This is how he learned that Williams was holding a gun. At this point, Williams reportedly kept telling Mader repeatedly, “Just shoot me.” In response, Mader kept saying calmly, “I’m not going to shoot you. Just put the gun down.”
“When I arrived at the scene, Mr. Williams was pleading for me to shoot him. He didn’t appear angry or aggressive. He seemed depressed,” Mader said in a recent press statement. “Because of that I attempted to deescalate the situation. I was just doing my job”
Mader: Williams was suicidal.
During the confrontation, Williams looked “choked up.” Mader also could tell that Williams is “suicidal.” As the situation continued, two other officers arrived at the scene. They fired at Williams “within seconds.” One bullet struck his head, killing him.
Following the incident, the Weirton Police Department decided to place Mader on administrative leave. Later on, the department fired him on the grounds that he supposedly put other officers at risk by “failing to shoot and kill Williams.” However, after the shooting, police also confirmed that the gun William’s held was not loaded as Mader had suspected. Moreover, Williams’ girlfriend also raised the same point.
After Mader’s termination, Mader spoke with a newspaper about the Williams incident. In response, Mader claims that the City of Weirton “engaged in a campaign to harass” him as well as “tarnish his reputation” through a number false allegations. Moreover, the city is also being accused of “sending profanity-laced text messages and spreading misinformation about him at his job training program.”
Today, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of West Virginia is helping put Mader’s case forward. “The Weirton Police Department so deeply misunderstands Stephen Mader’s sensible attempt to prevent violence and death that it kicked him off the force and then publicly attacked his character when he spoke out,” ACLU of West Virginia Executive Director Joseph Cohen remarked.
According to a copy of the complaint filed, Mader is now seeking compensatory damages.