A good cop who decided to negotiate with a suicidal man with an unloaded gun instead of killing him filed a lawsuit against the West Virginia city that fired him over it.
The Weirton police officers who did shoot and kill the suicidal man kept their jobs.
According to the suit, officer Ryan Kuzma, who fired the fatal shot that killed 21-year-old Ronald William, sent text messages to the fired officer, Stephen Mader, calling him a “coward” who “didn’t have the balls to save his own life.”
Kuzma added Mader and his mother were “loud mouth pieces of shit” who would get an officer killed – although it appears Mader, a Marine veteran who served in Afghanistan, is anything but a coward.
Stephen Mader Was Fired For Not Shooting A Man Holding An Unloaded Gun.
After Kuzma fatally shot Williams in the head, it was determined the silver pistol he was holding was not loaded.
Nevertheless, the Weirton Police Department called Mader a “bad cop” and a “disgruntled” employee” who “froze” during the incident.
It happened on May 6, 2016 after police received a call from Williams’ girlfriend about a domestic dispute.
“The call came in around 2:50 in the morning,” Mader said.
“The whole thing was over by 3:02 (a.m.).”
“When he brought his hands from behind his back, he had a silver pistol in his right hand,” Mader recalled.
“I drew my duty weapon and I’m telling him, ‘Put the gun down, put the gun down.'”
Unaware the silver pistol Williams was holding in his hand wasn’t loaded, Mader observed Williams didn’t appear angry and seemed more depressed.
With his gun drawn on Williams, Mader didn’t view him as an immediate threat, so he worked to deescalate the situation.
“Saying the words ‘Just shoot me’ sent up the red flag that he was just trying to harm himself and no one else. That’s what made me make my decision. He needed help.”
Mader responded he wasn’t going to shoot anyone and ordered him to drop the gun.
“I’m not gonna shoot you, brother,” he said.
“Just put the gun down.”
Then he said it again.
“Nah man. Seriously ― just shoot me,” Williams replied again.
Mader never shot Williams.
Soon, another police cruiser drove up the street towards them. When officers Baker and Kuzma arrived, Williams began randomly waiving the gun around between officers.
“Within seconds, shots were fired and the last shot fatally wounded Mr. Williams to the head,” Mader recalled.
While Mader attempted to negotiate with Williams, his girlfriend called 911 a second time, telling dispatchers Williams became angry after she called the police, retrieved a gun from his car and intended on pulling the gun on officers in order to commit suicide by cop.
It’s unclear whether the 911 dispatcher relayed the girlfriend’s message to officers Mike Baker and Ryan Kuzma before they opened fired.
After the incident, the Weirton Police Department placed Mader on administrative leave, then fired him a month later for failing to “eliminate a threat” and for displaying “apparent difficulties in critical incident reasoning.”The Weirton Police Department concluded Mader, who had only been a police officer for 10 months, unsuccessfully met their “probationary standards of an officer.”A month later, Hancock County West Virginia prosecutor Jim Davis held a news conference and announced a month-long investigation found the shooting of Williams was justified, which is what he said shortly after the incident.The next day, officer Kuzma responded to a call about a damaged truck and showed up at the school where Mader was attending in order to obtain his commercial drivers license.Mader tried to avoid Kuzma, who asked if he’d gotten his text messages and if they were accurate.“Not really,” Mader replied.So Kuzma repeated the allegations, calling him a coward in front of others at the school.
“It started out calm and it kind of escalated. I was trying to keep it calm,” Mader reported.
The school’s owner called to report the incident, but the chief never wrote a report and denied the incident ever happened.Officer Kuzma was never disciplined.The ACLU said it got involved in Mader’s case because of what it highlights about policing in the U.S.
“The termination of Stephen Mader shows how much work we have to do to reform the nature of policing in our state,” Executive Director of the ACLU in West Virginia Joseph Cohen said.
“Once he made the decision [Williams] was not a threat, the U.S. Constitution says he’s not allowed to shoot. Not only was his belief reasonable, it was objectively correct. The gun was unloaded,” Cohen continued. ”
“If Stephen Mader was reasonable in his objectively correct decision that RJ Williams was not a threat to others, the real reason the Weirton Police Department fired him is because he honored Williams’ constitutional right not to be shot.”
Mader now works as a military police officer in the West Virginia National Guard.