After responding to a report of a domestic incident on May 6 in Weirton, W.Va., then-Weirton police officer Stephen Mader found himself confronting an armed man.Immediately, the training he had undergone as a Marine to look at “the whole person” in deciding if someone was a terrorist, as well as his situational police academy training, kicked in and he did not shoot.“I saw then he had a gun, but it was not pointed at me,” Mr. Mader recalled, noting the silver handgun was in the man’s right hand, hanging at his side and pointed at the ground.Mr. Mader, who was standing behind Mr. Williams’ car parked on the street, said he then “began to use my calm voice.”“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.
Mr. Mader — speaking publicly about this case for the first time — said that when he tried to return to work on May 17, following normal protocol for taking time off after an officer-involved shooting, he was told to go see Weirton Police Chief Rob Alexander.In a meeting with the chief and City Manager Travis Blosser, Mr. Mader said Chief Alexander 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.”Mr. Mader said that “right then I said to him: ‘Look, I didn’t shoot him because he said, ‘Just shoot me.’ ”On June 7, a Weirton officer delivered him a notice of termination letter dated June 6, which said by not shooting Mr. Williams he “failed to eliminate a threat.”
After he received his termination notice, Mr. Mader sought attorneys to help him fight the city. He was told because he was still a probationary employee in an “at-will” state, he could be fired for any reason and there was no point in fighting the city.One attorney told him the best he could hope for was to ask to resign instead of being terminated.“But I told [the attorney] ‘Look, I don’t want to admit guilt. I’ll take the termination instead of the resignation because I didn’t do anything wrong,’ ” Mr. Mader said. “To resign and admit I did something wrong here would have ate at me. I think I’m right in what I did. I’ll take it to the grave.”