- City of Weirton/Facebook
A Weirton, West Virginia, police officer was fired in June after trying to talk down rather than kill an armed man whose gun was later found to be unloaded, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported on Sunday.
Another officer fatally shot the man.
On May 6, Stephen Mader responded to a 911 call about a domestic dispute. When Mader arrived, Ronald Williams Jr. was holding a firearm.
Mader told the Post-Gazette that despite the threat, his experiences as a Marine and his police-academy training stopped him from pulling the trigger.
“I saw then he had a gun, but it was not pointed at me,” Mader told the Post-Gazette. Mader said he then noticed the gun was pointed at the ground.
“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 continued.
Mader said he thought it was a “suicide-by-cop” situation and felt confident he could de-escalate the situation.
Before that could happen, however, two other officers arrived at the scene, and one of them fatally shot Williams as he approached waving his handgun at them.
Williams’ gun was later found to be unloaded, but a police investigation concluded that the killing was justified.
Mader said the officer who chose to shoot Williams did the right thing under the circumstances.
“They did not have the information I did,” he told the Post-Gazette. “They don’t know anything I heard. All they know is [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.”
- Screenshot via WTOV
Several days after the shooting, however, Weirton Police Chief Rob Alexander told Mader that he had been put on “administrative leave” and that the department was going to investigate his qualifications as an officer because, according to Alexander, he put two officers in danger.
Mader received a notice-of-termination letter on June 7 saying he “failed to eliminate a threat” by not killing Williams.
Though Mader initially sought to fight the termination, attorneys whom he consulted advised him to instead pursue an opportunity for resignation because of the weak nature of his case. Mader told the Post-Gazette that he didn’t intend to pursue that course, as it would mean admitting guilt for the incident.
“To resign and admit I did something wrong here would have ate at me,” Mader said. “I think I’m right in what I did. I’ll take it to the grave.”