West Virginia officer fired for not killing man armed with unloaded gun
In May, Weirton police officer Stephen Mader was confronted with a man waving a gun and decided not to fire, because he concluded after assessing the situation that the man was trying to commit what is called "suicide by cop."
"I saw then he had a gun, but it was not pointed at me," Mader, who is Marine-trained, said in recalling the incident for the first time publicly. He said that upon seeing the man, he "began to use my calm voice."
"I told him, 'Put down the gun,' and he's like, 'Just shoot me.' And I told him, 'I'm not going to shoot you brother.' Then he starts flicking his wrist to get me to react to it," Mader recalled of the confrontation with Ronald D. "R.J." Williams Jr. "I thought I was going to be able to talk to him and deescalate it. I knew it was a suicide-by-cop" situation.
See photos of the officer and victim and social media reaction:
However, two other officers arrived on the scene and saw that Williams was waving the gun, which was unloaded, between Mader and the other officers. One of them fired and hit Williams fatally in the back of the head.
While Mader believes that his fellow officers were justified in the shooting because they did not have the same information he did, he says that he is baffled by the behavior of his chief.
Weirton Police Chief Rob Alexander called him in after the incident to tell him, "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."
"Right then I said to him: 'Look, I didn't shoot him because he said, 'Just shoot me,'" Mader recalled. However, despite his explanation, Mader was fired in June on the grounds that he "failed to eliminate a threat."
Mader sought out attorneys after his termination, though one told him that it would be better for him to ask to resign rather than fight the termination.
"But I told [the attorney] 'Look, I don't want to admit guilt. I'll take the termination instead of the resignation because I didn't do anything wrong,' " Mr. Mader said. "To resign and admit I did something wrong here would have ate at me. I think I'm right in what I did. I'll take it to the grave."
Now, Mader is going to school to get a commercial truck driving license, though he said that he would not rule out a law enforcement job if one became available.