A West Virginia police officer was reportedly fired after not shooting an armed man during an incident in May.
Then-Weirton police officer Stephen Mader was involved in a heated exchange with Ronald D. Williams, 23, of Pittsburgh, who then brandished a gun and told Mader to shoot him, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Sunday. Williams was black.
Mader, a former Marine, told the paper he had used training from his time in the military and his situational training in the police academy to assess the situation.
“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. I thought I was going to be able to talk to him and deescalate it. I knew it was a suicide-by-cop situation.”
Out of nowhere, two other Weirton officers arrived at the scene. The paper reported that Williams walked toward them waving his gun and one of them shot Williams in the back of the head, killing him.
Williams’ gun was found to be unloaded.
A month-long investigation into the incident determined that the shooting was justified, but it wasn’t the end for Mader.
Mader, who was speaking about the case for the first time with the Post-Gazette, said that when he tried to go back to work days after the shooting, he was ordered to see Police Chief Rob Alexander.
Mader met with Alexander and City Manager Travis Blosser and was told he was being placed “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 said.
Nearly a month later, a Weirton officer had issued him a termination notice for “failing to eliminate a threat.” The notice included two other instances in which officials said Mader acted inappropriately.
The letter cited an incident in April where he and two other officers reported that the death of an elderly woman who appeared to have a stroke and fell in her home was suspicious and an incident in March where Mader allegedly swore at a woman when she asked him why her husband was being arrested for disorderly conduct over a parking ticket.
He was officially terminated on June 29.
He told the Post-Gazette he believes he was improperly fired and was never given a chance to clarify what happened in each of the three cases.
“Firing me for it, it’s less of an eyebrow-raiser then to say the other officers are justified in what they did — which I think they were.”
Mader said he realizes the interest this case could generate because of the controversy over shootings of black men by white officers, but insists that the other two officers – who are white – acted right because they weren’t saddled with the same information Mader had.
“They did not have the information I did,” he said. “They don’t know anything I heard. All they know is (Mr. Williams) is waving a gun at them. It’s a shame it happened the way it did, but, I don’t think they did anything wrong.”
Mader, who served four years in the Marines, sought counsel to see what his options were in fighting his termination. They told him he was still technically a “probationary employee in an at-will state” and could be fired by the city for any reason.
He now plans to go to school to get his commercial license to drive trucks, but would consider a job in law enforcement if an opportunity arose.