Stephen Mader, a former officer in West Virginia, sued after he was fired for not shooting a black suspect during a standoff in 2016
A former police officer who alleged he was fired for not shooting a black suspect 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 Stephen Mader, a former officer in Weirton, West Virginia, who was also granted a pledge that his former employer would not prevent him from obtaining a new job in law enforcement elsewhere.
Mader was the first responding officer to a 2016 call involving RJ Williams, a 23-year-old black man believed to be suicidal. Mader, who is white, made the determination that Williams did not pose an immediate threat to him or fellow officers, even though he was holding a gun. Mader began trying to talk Williams down.
“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.”
But amid Mader’s attempts to convince Williams to drop the weapon, two veteran officers arrived on the scene and, almost immediately, shot and killed Williams.
Mader, an Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran, 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.
Mader disagreed and 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 after the settlement.
After the suit was filed, the city argued that Mader was actually terminated for two other prior incidents, and not for holding fire against Williams. This claim did not square with termination letter, however, which directly and repeatedly chastised Mader for not shooting.
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 Mader.
A call to the attorney representing Williams’ family was not immediately returned.
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