very time we hear about another Black man shoot and killed by the police, we ask, “Can’t police use restraint? What about de-escalate?” A Weirton, West Virginia police officer tried to de-escalate and he was fired.
According to CNN, Stephen Mader was responding to a domestic-disturbance call on May 6, 2016. Mader found 23-year-old Ronald “R.J.” Williams Jr. with an unloaded handgun. CNN reports, “Williams was ‘visibly choked up’ and told Mader to shoot him. As a Marine veteran who served in Afghanistan, Mader told CNN that he concluded Williams wasn’t a threat and so he tried to de-escalate the situation.” Yes, de-escalate! How wonderful it is to hear a police officer use compassion and common sense. That said, Williams was still killed — by another officer. “As Mader was trying to get Williams to drop his gun, two other Weirton police officers arrived. Mader told CNN that Williams raised his gun and was immediately shot and killed by one of the other officers. A state investigation found the officer’s actions were justified.”
On June 7, 2016, the Weirton Police Department fired Mader for “failure to meet probationary standards of an officer” and “apparent difficulties in critical incident reasoning.” Not killing a man who he knew wasn’t a threat and had an unloaded gun was considered a failure?
Thankfully, Stephen Mader sued the police department. The American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia announced the Weirton Police Department will pay the former police officer $175,000 for wrongful-termination. Joseph Cohen, ACLU-WV executive director, said, “We need to give law enforcement officers tools to effectively serve their communities. That means we need to invest in de-escalation training, implicit bias training and crisis intervention training. Hopefully the resolution of this lawsuit will send a message to the City of Weirton and police departments across the country that our communities deserve thoughtful, compassionate, transparent law enforcement.” Timothy O’Brien, lead counsel in the lawsuit, also said, “No police officer should ever lose their job — or have their name dragged through the mud — for choosing to talk to, rather than shoot, a fellow citizen.”
As for Stephen Mader, he is ready to move on, “At the end of the day, I’m happy to put this chapter of my life to bed. The events leading to my termination were unjustified and I’m pleased a joint resolution has been met. My hope is that no other person on either end of a police call has to go through this again.” Watch the powerful clip below of Mader being reprimanded for not shooting the 23-year-old.
Kudos to Stephen Mader for fighting back against injustice and winning. Our condolences go out to the friends and family of Ronald “R.J.” Williams Jr.