A former police officer received a $175,000 settlement after he was fired for not shooting a disturbed man, holding an unloaded handgun in 2016, CNN reports.
Stephen Mader accused the Weirton Police Department in West Virginia of wrongful termination after he chose not to shoot 23-year-old Ronald "R.J." Williams Jr., who was later killed by other officers on the force.
Weirton City Manager Travis Blosser said that Mader wasn’t fired for not shooting Blosser, but rather “a totality of circumstances." He had no comment on the settlement.
Mader showed up to the scene after Williams' girlfriend called the police, and claimed that he was going to harm himself with a knife. When Mader arrived and asked Williams to show his hands, he was holding a silver handgun.
According to the suit, when asked to drop the gun, Williams said “I can't do that. Just shoot me."
Mader, a military veteran, realized Williams was experiencing emotional distress.
“He didn't appear angry or aggressive," said Mader. "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 de-escalate the situation. I was just doing my job."
As Mader attempted to talk Williams down, two other officers arrived and immediately shot Williams when he raised his gun. "The call came in around 2:50 in the morning," said Mader. "The whole thing was over by 3:02 [a.m.]."
Now that the settlement has been approved, Mader is pleased.
“At the end of the day, I'm happy to put this chapter of my life to bed," Mader said in a news release from the American Civil Liberties Union branch in West Virginia. "The events leading to my termination were unjustified and I'm pleased a joint resolution has been met. My hope is that no other person on either end of a police call has to go through this again."
His legal counsel is also satisfied with the settlement.
“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," said Timothy O’Brien, head counsel of the case. "His decision to attempt to de-escalate the situation should have been praised, not punished. Simply put, no police officer should ever feel forced to take a life unnecessarily to save his career."