A West Virginia police officer who was fired after he refused to shoot a black suspect for not during a standoff has settled a wrongful termination suit with his former department for $175,000.
“At the end of the day, I’m happy to put this chapter of my life to bed,” said the former officer in Weirton, West Virginia.
Stephen Mader was the first responding officer to a 2016 call involving a suicidal 23-year-old black man. The former police officer made the determination that the 23-year-old RJ Williams did not pose an immediate threat to him or fellow officers, even though he was holding a gun.
“He wasn’t angry,” Mader previously told the Guardian. “He wasn’t aggressive, he didn’t seem in position to want to use a gun against anybody. He never pointed it at me. I didn’t perceive him as an imminent threat.”
However, two veteran officers arrived on the scene and, almost immediately, shot and killed Williams.
Mader received a termination letter 10 days later, which claimed that he failed to respond to the threat. “The unfortunate reality of police work is that making any decision is better than making no decision at all,” it read.
He filed a suit alleging wrongful termination. “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,” Mader’s attorney Timothy O’Brien said.
The city said in a statement that the decision to settle was a call made by its insurance provider, and that it stood by its decision to fire Stephen Mader.