A West Virginia police officer who refused to shoot a man holding an unloaded gun was fired for not pulling the trigger, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

Then-Weirton police officer Stephen Mader was let go after a May 6 incident in which he said he tried to talk Ronald D. “R.J.” Williams Jr. out of harming himself.

“I thought I was going to be able to talk to him and deescalate it,” Mader, an ex-Marine, told The Post-Gazette. “I knew it was suicide-by-cop.”

Mader said even though he didn’t know Williams Jr.’s gun was unloaded at the time, the man had the gun at his side and was not pointing it at the officer. He also knew that he had been called to the scene because of a domestic disturbance and Williams Jr. had only threatened to hurt himself.

“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,’” Mader said.

Eventually, two other officers arrived and one of them shot and killed Williams Jr., hitting him in the back of the head, just behind his right ear, The Post-Gazette reported.

The shooting was deemed justified, but Mader was terminated because he “failed to eliminate a threat,”
according to his June 6 termination letter. Mader is now working toward getting a commercial license to drive trucks.

City officials did not return calls from The Post-Gazette seeking comment.