Former West Virginia police officer Stephen Mader, who was fired for trying to de-escalate a situation with a black man instead of shooting him, reached a settlement with the City of Weirton for a reported $175,000, according to the ACLU.
In early 2016, Mader responded to a domestic disturbance call on R.J. Williams by his girlfriend and arrived on the scene to find Williams with his hands behind his back, eventually revealing a gun. Despite Williams' refusal to put down the gun and repeated requests to "just shoot [him]," Mader attempted to de-escalate the situation instead, trying to convince Williams to drop his weapon, which would later be discovered as having been unloaded the whole time.
Backup arrived at the scene, shooting and killing Williams within seconds. Mader would later be fired for not taking the same action. He would go to file a lawsuit against the city, with the ACLU arguing that the termination was in "violation of public policy" and that the city's decision went against an officer who was actually acting in accordance with the Fourth Amendment, which states that an officer can only use deadly force in the face of imminent threat.
Mader previously spoke with The Guardian about the incident. “He wasn’t angry,” he explained. “He wasn’t aggressive, he didn’t seem in a position to want to use a gun against anybody. He never pointed it at me. I didn’t perceive him as an imminent threat.”
What this settlement is unable to do is bring R.J. Williams back, and it's another instance of police brutality that could have been avoided. Hopefully, the decision can continue the dialogue about the need for de-escalation and crisis intervention training in policing, especially when working in communities of color.
“At the end of the day, I’m happy to put this chapter of my life to bed,” Mader said. In addition to the settlement, Mader is also promised that his former employer cannot prevent him from getting a job in law enforcement anywhere else.