A Weirton, West Virginia police officer was fired in June for refusing to kill a man with an unloaded gun, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported on Sunday.
The man was shot and killed by another officer moments later.
On May 6, then-police officer Stephen Mader responded to a 911 call about suicide threat. When Mader arrived, Ronald Williams, Jr. was holding a firearm.
Despite the threat, Mader says 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 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Mader then noticed that 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.
According to Mader, it was a “suicide-by-cop” situation and he felt confident that he could desescalate situation.
Before that could happen, however, two other officers arrived at the scene and Williams was shot dead as he approached them waving his handgun at them.
It turns out that Williams’ gun was unloaded, and a police investigation concluded the killing was justified.
Mader said the officer who chose to shoot Williams did the right thing given the circumstance.
“They did not have the information I did,” he said. “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.”
Several days after the shooting, 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.
On June 7, Mader received a notice of termination letter saying that he “failed to eliminate a threat” by not killing Williams.
Though Mader initially sought to fight the termination, attorneys that he consulted advised him to pursue an opportunity for resignation, rather than fight, due to the weak nature of his case. Mader told the Gazette that he doesn’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. I think I’m right in what I did. I’ll take it to the grave,” said Mader.