West Virginia

West Virginia Cop Fired After Not Shooting a Suicidal Man Files Lawsuit

Stephen Mader didn't shoot a suicidal, gun-wielding man. For that, he says he was fired and called a coward.

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Stephen Mader // GoFundMe

A West Virginia police officer who was fired after not shooting an emotionally disturbed man with an unloaded gun filed a civil rights lawsuit Wednesday against his former department.

Mader's lawsuit, filed Wednesday on his behalf by the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia and the law office of Timothy O'Brien, claims he was wrongly terminated, and that the county, city and police department violated his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. He is seeking compensatory and punitive damages in excess of $75,000.

Mader, a former police officer in Weirton, W.V. and a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served two tours of duty, was fired last year following a confrontation with Ronald Williams, a 21-year-old black man.

Williams' girlfriend had called 911 to report he was threatening to kill himself, and that he had an unloaded gun.

"When I arrived at the scene, Mr. Williams was pleading for me to shoot him. He didn't appear angry or aggressive," Mader said in a statement. "He seemed depressed. As a Marine vet that served in Afghanistan and as an active member of the National Guard, all my training told me he was not a threat to others or me. Because of that I attempted to deescalate the situation. I was just doing my job."

Shortly after, another officer arrived on the scene and fatally shot Williams after Williams raised his gun. The gun was unloaded. State investigators later determined the shooting was justified.

The Weirton Police Department's use-of-force policy prohibits officers from using deadly force except "in defense of himself/herself or others from an objectively reasonable belief of an immediate threat of death or serious bodily injury."

Roughly a month later, Mader was fired by the Weirton Police Department for "failure to meet probationary standards of an officer" and "apparent difficulties in critical incident reasoning," according to his lawsuit.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported last September:

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."

The Weirton Police Department held a press conference disputing the Post-Gazette's reporting, calling it one-sided. The department said Mader did not attempt to deescalate the situation, first yelling profanity at Williams and then freezing. City officials also said Mader was fired due to "multiple" prior incidents, including performing a search of a car without probable cause. Mader's lawsuit says those statements are false. Officials also called him a "disgruntled employee" and "a bad cop."

The officer who shot Williams texted Mader after the press conference, according to the lawsuit, and called him a "coward" who "didn't have the balls to save [his] own life."

"The City of Weirton's decision to fire officer Mader because he chose not to shoot and kill a fellow citizen—when he believed that he should not use such force, not only violates the Constitution, common sense and public policy—but incredibly punishes restraint—when given the tragic, and, far too frequent unnecessary use of deadly force," O'Brien, the lead attorney in Mader's case, said in a statement. "Such restraint should be praised not penalized. To tell a police officer—when in doubt—either shoot to kill, or get fired, is a choice that no police officer should ever have to make and is a message that is wrong and should never be sent."

Mader no longer works in law enforcement.

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  1. Current nut status: punched.

    1. Seriously, i thought Balko was rough. Ciaramella puts IcyHot on the gloves before working that scrote like a speed bag, though.

    2. Mader no longer works in law enforcement.

      Picture high-paying contract security work, hunting trips out West, weeks golfing followed by weekends fishing… apply as needed.

  2. A West Virginia police officer who was fired after not shooting an emotionally disturbed man with an unloaded gun filed a civil rights lawsuit Wednesday against his former department.

    Mader’s lawsuit, filed Wednesday on his behalf by the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia and the law office of Timothy O’Brien,

    Why isn’t his union behind him? Oh wait, I think I know.

  3. That coward didn’t have the balls to save his own life. Well I’m heard it all now.

    1. Well, he must be dead now.

  4. Mader no longer works in law enforcement.

    Which perhaps makes him the more believable party in this suit.

  5. This reads like a Kafka novel.

    1. Mr. Dolance said that he has been told by Dr. Wecht that the one shot that hit Mr. Williams hit him with a downward trajectory on the right side of his head behind his ear, exiting on the left side of his head, killing him instantly.

      Kafka was too abstract. This sounds like an execution followed by a cover up. The fact that we only know the name of one officer is damning/terrifying.

      1. The guy was literally asking to be killed. Do you not believe that the police should obey the will of the people?

  6. This bit was particularly funny:

    “City officials also said Mader was fired due to “multiple” prior incidents, including performing a search of a car without probable cause.”

    Do they really think we’re stupid enough to believe that’s a reason for firing a cop? If they’d claimed that he _refused_ to perform a search without probably cause it would be more believable.

    1. If only he had had the decency to pull the passengers of the car out, beat them on the side of the road, and shoot them in the head. Maybe he’d still have a job.

  7. See? Even Reason has to finally admit that there is such a thing as a good cop.

    1. And they’re hating themselves for it.
      Say…whatever happened to Puppycide?, the Dog-Murder Epidemic?

      1. Funny, you’re here, and still attacking “us” for pointing out how evil the whole situation is.

        And to be fair, the only thing this proves is that there once was a good cop, and he was fired by all the bad ones.

  8. Is the Black Lives Matter protesting this firing? If they had any concern for actual black lives, they should. As a bonus, it might buy BLM some positive PR if they did.

  9. Okay, it’s a fucked up situation, but I am confused. How does firing a cop employee for a stupid reason violate the Constitution?

  10. Oh look there’s a dog. Check and mate.

  11. This is not surprising. He’s a good person which means he’s a bad cop.

  12. Most departments have a policy: One fire, all fire, until empty. All three LEOs violated that policy. Were they punished?
    This policy does not allow for an officer’s discretion. It does cover up for an officer who mistakenly fired one shot. The rest are supposed to jump in and make a bad situation for the citizen worse. But in sacrificing the citizen the LEO is protected from exposure of his mistake. And isn’t that what law enforcement is all about, the LEOs?

    In the case of William’s execution by an unnamed murderer the most credible witness was discredited in advance as a sacrifice for the good of force. Where was his union rep? That would be inappropriate. The union is for the force.

    The girlfriend obviously doesn’t watch alternative media like CopBlock or read Reason. She would have known that calling the cops is often fatal for the citizen. She was complicit by ignorance. I hope she learned from her tragic mistake to never call the cops, instead plan ahead to self defend and self govern.

  13. Sigh. I think Mader was right to do what he did, but I don’t see that he has a civil rights case. Sometimes you just aren’t the right fit for a particular job, and the best thing you can do is move somewhere else. The Chief of Police of Wiarton is a real bastard, though!

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