What the hell is going on in this country?? A white West Virginia cop chose to de-escalate a situation instead of shooting a suicidal black man. And for his efforts he got fired.
On Monday, CNN reported,
“A West Virginia city has agreed to pay a former police officer $175,000 to settle a wrongful-termination lawsuit after he was fired following his decision not to shoot a distraught suspect who was holding a gun.”
The lawsuit was filed against the Weirton Police Department by officer Stephen Mader after he was fired for choosing not to shoot a distraught 23-year-old black man while responding to a domestic disturbance call in 2016.
“The incident occurred May 6, 2016, when Mader responded to a domestic-disturbance call and found Ronald “R.J.” Williams Jr. with an unloaded handgun.”
Last year, officer Mader told CNN that Williams was “visibly choked up.” Mader says that Williams asked him to shoot and kill him.
Mader, a Marine veteran, said that he assessed the situation and determined that Williams wasn’t a threat – so he tried to de-escalate the situation.
Mader was trying to get Williams to drop the unloaded gun when two other Weirton police officers showed up. When Williams saw the two officers he raised his gun. Immediately one of the officers shot and killed the black man. A state investigation later found that the shooting was justified.
In June of 2016, the Weirton Police Department fired Mader. According to the lawsuit filed in May of 2017, Mader was fired because of “failure to meet probationary standards of an officer” and “apparent difficulties in critical incident reasoning.”
In addition to not shooting Williams, Weirton PD said they also fired Mader because of an incident in 2016 when he entered a vehicle without a warrant to put a ticket on the dashboard. And they cited another incident where Mader and other officers failed to report an elderly woman’s death as suspicious. The woman’s death was later ruled a homicide.
Mader says that he and the other officers were told at the time by emergency responders that the woman died of natural causes.
But these were just excuses to try to justify firing him for not shooting a suicidal black man.
The lead attorney in Mader’s lawsuit, Timothy O’Brien, said that he’s pleased that the case has now been resolved.
“No police officer should ever lose their job — or have their name dragged through the mud — for choosing to talk to, rather than shoot, a fellow citizen,” he said. “His decision to attempt to de-escalate the situation should have been praised, not punished. Simply put, no police officer should ever feel forced to take a life unnecessarily to save his career.”
The West Virginia ACLU executive director Joseph Cohen said that Mader’s firing was “yet another incident exposing the toxic culture that infects far too many police departments in America.”
“We need to give law enforcement officers tools to effectively serve their communities. That means we need to invest in de-escalation training, implicit bias training and crisis intervention training. Hopefully the resolution of this lawsuit will send a message to the City of Weirton and police departments across the country that our communities deserve thoughtful, compassionate, transparent law enforcement.”
In a news release by the ACLU of West Virginia, Mader said, “At the end of the day, I’m happy to put this chapter of my life to bed.”
“The events leading to my termination were unjustified and I’m pleased a joint resolution has been met. My hope is that no other person on either end of a police call has to go through this again.”