A former West Virginia police officer who allegedly was fired for opting not to shoot a man won $175,000 in a settlement after filing a wrongful termination lawsuit against his former department.
[Stephen] Mader was the first responding officer to a 2016 call involving RJ Williams, a 23-year-old black man believed to be suicidal. Mader, who is white, made the determination that Williams did not pose an immediate threat to him or fellow officers, even though he was holding a gun. Mader began trying to talk Williams down.
“He wasn’t angry,” Mader previously told the Guardian. “He wasn’t aggressive, he didn’t seem in position to want to use a gun against anybody. He never pointed it at me. I didn’t perceive him as an imminent threat.”
But when two fellow officers arrived on scene, the man was almost immediately shot and killed.
Mader, an Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran, received a termination letter 10 days later, which claimed that he failed to respond to the threat. “The unfortunate reality of police work is that making any decision is better than making no decision at all,” it read.
Mader disagreed that he had done nothing and filed the lawsuit.
“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,” Mader’s attorney Timothy O’Brien said after the settlement.
According to a statement from the city, the decision to settle was made by its insurance provider. The city also said it stood by the decision to terminate Mader.