By PoliceOne Staff
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A West Virginia officer who was fired after refusing to shoot an armed, suicidal suspect has settled a lawsuit for $175,000.
Stephen Mader was fired eight weeks after refusing to shoot 23-year-old R.J. Williams, leading to the lawsuit filed by the ACLU of West Virginia, according to the Associated Press. The incident occurred on May 2016, when Mader responded to a call from Williams’ girlfriend that Williams was threatening to hurt himself with a knife.
Mader attempted to persuade Williams to put his gun down instead of shooting him. Another officer saw Williams raise his gun and fatally shot him. Williams’ gun was unloaded.
Mader was fired a few weeks after the shooting. According to the lawsuit, Mader was fired specifically for the May 2016 incident. He said his firing was unjustified.
The lawsuit also cited the state constitution, which prohibits officers from using deadly force unless the target poses an immediate threat or serious bodily injury to the officer and others.
Mader said Williams was visibly upset but wasn’t aggressive or violent. He determined that Williams wanted to die by “suicide by cop.”
Weirton City Manager Travis Blosser said that the city still stands by its decision to fire Mader.
“We still feel we made the correct decision,” Blosser said. “We don’t regret that decision. We feel we made the correct decision for the community.”
Officials said Mader was fired for conduct unbecoming of an officer in three separate incidents. In March 2016, Mader was issued a verbal warning for opening a car door to place a parking ticket inside without a search warrant and cursing the car owner’s wife.
A month later, Mader found a woman dead after responding to a call about a cardiac arrest. Mader determined the woman, whose autopsy later showed she sustained blunt force trauma, died of natural causes. Mader reportedly didn’t file a police report, collected no evidence, and the body was sent to a funeral home.
Mader’s personnel file includes an investigative report by a Weirton PD captain that said Williams presented “a clear and present danger” to others and recommended Mader’s firing.
Blosser said the city’s insurance carrier made the decision to settle the lawsuit. Investigators found the officer who fatally shot Williams did nothing wrong.