Officer Stephen Mader reached a settlement with the West Virginia police department, which fired him in 2016. Mader, 27, had refused to shoot an armed black man and relied instead on his training as a Marine to calm the the “visibly distraught” Ronald J. Williams Jr., 23. Williams, a father of one child, was shot to death by another officer responding to the domestic disturbance call, but was not found guilty of wrongdoing.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, which took Mader’s case, “Rather than shoot, Mader returned to his military training and attempted to de-escalate the situation. He softened his voice, looked Williams in the eye and said: ‘I’m not going to shoot you, brother. I’m not going to shoot you’.” When Williams raised his gun, one of two other officers arriving on the scene fired four times and killed Williams. Williams’ pistol was unloaded. The incident occured on May 6, 2016.
According to local authorities, the mother of Williams' child told an emergency dispatcher that Williams was holding a knife to his throat and threatening to harm himself. After informing him that police were enroute, she claimed that Williams told her he was going to retrieve a handgun from his car and make police shoot him. A press release from West Virginia State Police declared, “He met Weirton Police Department officers outside the home, brandished the firearm in their direction, and was shot and killed.”
Williams' family members expressed doubts about the account of the incident given by police. They consulted with the NAACP and the Black Lives Matter movement, and hired an attorney, as well as forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht to do a second autopsy before Williams' cremation.
Local police in Weirton, West Virginia, ruled that Mader “froze on the scene” and was fired for that reason, in addition to other infractions. Having successfuly argued a wrongful termination suit against the police department, Mader will receive $175,000 in compensation. In an ACLU press release, Mader declared, “At the end of the day, I'm happy to put this chapter of my life to bed.” Mader added, "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."
At the time of the confrontation between Williams and the officers, Williams asked Mader to shoot him. Mader, a veteran of combat in Afghanistan, concluded that Williams was not a threat. While seeking to de-escalate the drama and induce Williams to drop his weapon, Williams allegedly raised his handgun. It was then that another officer fired the shots that ended his life. A later investigation by state authorities ruled that the officer’s actions were justified. Mader was fired on June 7, 2016, by the Weirton Police Department.
Mader’s lawsuit, which wasfiled in May 2017, claims that the Weirton police department terminated his employment because of his "failure to meet probationary standards of an officer" and "apparent difficulties in critical incident reasoning." Weirton City Manager Travis Blosser told CNN later that year that Mader was fired not just for the Williams incident but also for "a totality of circumstances," which included failure to report an elderly woman's death as suspicious. The woman's death was later ruled a homicide. Mader disputed that conclusion, arguing that he was told that first-responders had confirmed to him of the woman’s death by natural causes.
Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.