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.
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.'”
“Just shoot me,” Williams told Mader after brandishing an unloaded pistol on him, according to the Huffington Post.
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.
It’s unclear whether the 911 dispatcher relayed the girlfriend’s message to officers Mike Baker and Ryan Kuzma before they opened fired.
“It started out calm and it kind of escalated. I was trying to keep it calm,” Mader reported.
“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.