West Virginia Officer Stephen Mader Reportedly Fired For Not Shooting Somebody
West Virginia Officer Stephen Mader Fired For Not Shooting Somebody
Weirton, West Virginia – Weirton Police Officer Stephen Mader was reportedly fired after he did not shoot an armed suspect during a May 6th incident.
The Pittsburgh Post Gazette Reports that Stephen Mader was a rookie officer when he responded to a domestic disturbance and found Ronald Williams Jr., 23, armed with a gun. “I saw then he had a gun, but it was not pointed at me,” Mader told the newspaper.
“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. I thought I was going to be able to talk to him and deescalate it. I knew it was a suicide-by-cop” situation,” Mader said.
Two other officers then arrived and Ronald Williams Jr. walked toward them, waving his gun at them. The officers responded to the apparent threat to their lives by shooting Williams. While not known to any of the officers at the time, it was later discovered that the gun was not loaded.
All officers were placed on leave, and an investigation determined the shooting was justified. When Stephen Mader returned to work a couple of weeks later, he was sent to speak with Weirton Police Chief Rob Alexander.
Stephen Mader said that the chief 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.”
Mader responded, “right then I said to him: ‘Look, I didn’t shoot him because he said, ‘Just shoot me.’ ” Mader was later given a notice of termination which noted that he “failed to eliminate a threat,” along with two other incidents on his record.
While Stephen Mader claims he was never given an opportunity to explain himself, he chose not to show up to the city’s termination hearing. Mader has no other recourse to challenge his termination because he was a new officer in probationary status.
After the incident, Stephen Mader agrees with the other officer’s decision to shoot, even though he didn’t think it was necessary. “They did not have the information I did,” he said. “They don’t know anything I heard. All they know is [Mr. 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.”
Police officers are given discretion on when to use deadly force, as long as it’s legally justified. A police officer will generally experience several instances in their career where they would be legally justified in using deadly force, but they instead make a judgement call to place their life at greater risk in order to save the suspect’s life. Police departments generally encourage their officers to use less force, and it’s exceptionally uncommon for an officer to be fired for not using deadly force.
When other officers hear the story of a fellow officer’s potentially deadly confrontation, they often respond that if they were in the same situation, they would have used deadly force. In reality, that may not be true. When an officer is involved in a potentially deadly situation, they use their judgement considering the totality of the circumstances to decide whether the risk to their life is worth not using deadly force. The officer is gambling with their life, but the reward could be saving a family from losing somebody that they care about.
The situation gets murkier when other officers are on scene. When multiple officers are on scene, then not only is the officer risking their own life, they are also risking the lives of their fellow officers.
Generally officers should be reserved in questioning the judgement of an officer who was on-scene and decided not to use deadly force; if you weren’t there, then you don’t truly have the same understanding of the circumstanced. However, Stephen Mader’s reported reasoning for not shooting is questionable. He appeared to reason that because it was a “suicide by cop” situation, the suspect was not a threat that needed to be stopped. Suicidal people are extremely dangerous because they don’t plan to stick around to see the consequences of their actions. Douglas County Detective Dan Brite was critically injured after being shot by a suicidal suspect (this deputy can still use your prayers.)
It was also unreasonable to wait for Ronald Williams Jr. to point a gun at somebody, because by then, it could have been too late. Keep in mind, it wasn’t just Mader’s life that he was gambling with, but the lives of two other officers.
Do you think that firing Stephen Mader was appropriate, or should he have been given remedial training? Comment on this article on our Facebook page and let us know what you think.