Weirton, WV — Weirton police officer Stephen Mader exhibited extreme bravery and restraint earlier this year when he chose not to kill a suicidal man. For displaying such courage and reserve, Mader’s department fired him.
On May 6, 2016, Mader responded to a call about a domestic incident. When he showed up to the call, Mader confronted Ronald D. Williams Jr., 23, who was armed and in a diminished mental state.
Madar said that he began talking to the young man in his “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.
“I thought I was going to be able to talk to him and de-escalate it. I knew it was a suicide-by-cop” situation.
Even after the 23-year-old father twitched his wrist and waved around the gun, Mader did not feel threatened enough to kill him. His restraint was nothing short of remarkable.
However, this restraint would be in vain. Just as Mader successfully began to diffuse and de-escalate the situation — backup arrived. The cops who showed up were not like Mader. As soon they got out of the vehicle, one of the cops immediately fired and shot Williams in the back of the head, killing him.
When officers approached Williams body, they found that the gun he was holding was not loaded.
An investigation ensued, and the killing of Williams was eventually ruled justified.
However, according to the Post-Gazette, the case had some peculiar twists along the way. For three days, law enforcement refused to name Williams as the deceased. Also, the investigator assigned to the case left on a week-long vacation the next day, clearly showing they had no intention of doing an actual investigation.
According to the report from the Post-Gazette:
Mr. Mader — speaking publicly about this case for the first time — said that when he tried to return to work on May 17, following normal protocol for taking time off after an officer-involved shooting, he was told to go see Weirton Police Chief Rob Alexander.
In a meeting with the chief and City Manager Travis Blosser, Mr. Mader said Chief Alexander told 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.”
Mr. Mader said that “right then I said to him: ‘Look, I didn’t shoot him because he said, ‘Just shoot me.’ ”
On June 7, a Weirton officer delivered him a notice of termination letter dated June 6, which said by not shooting Mr. Williams he “failed to eliminate a threat.”
Because Mader tried to preserve life instead of end it, the department fired him. What they are essentially saying is kill for us or don’t work here.
Jack Dolance, an attorney for the Williams’ family, explained to the Post that Mr. Mader’s termination “is pretty clear evidence of their policy and that the way they feel [the shooting of Mr. Williams] should have been handled. Not only do they think he should have been shot and killed, but shot and killed more quickly.”
The police are unable to understand that had Mader been in the danger they claim he and his fellow officers were in — he would have been killed long before backup arrive. However, that simply wasn’t the case.
“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.”
These facts didn’t stop Chief Alexander from going after Mader, however.
“It was like [Chief Alexander] was a good guy and the next second he’s throwing me under the bus,” he said.
Mader, who thought his job as a cop was the start of something great is now studying to be a truck driver.
To show just how much of a standup guy Mader actually is, he was offered the easy way out and did not take it. Many times, when officers are caught in cases of brutality or misconduct, they are allowed to resign only to go to another department without the red ink in their service records. However, Mader knew he’d done nothing wrong and refused this blue privilege.
“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.”
Mader’s case illustrates a haunting truth of why good cops are so rare. Being a good cop and showing restraint is not compatible with modern policing and their training requiring them to escalate to deadly force without haste. When the proverbial good cop is found within their ranks — they are removed.
The department will now fill the void left by Mader with someone who will promise to kill for them, and fast.