Police officer who was fired for refusing to shoot a black suspect receives huge payout

Police officer who was fired for refusing to shoot a black suspect receives huge payout

Over the last few years, outrage over police violence against people of color has been brought to our attention via the likes of Black Lives Matter and other political activist groups.

In 2017, 987 people were killed by law enforcement - 191 of whom were black. Considering only 12 per cent of the American population are black, it's clear that a disproportionate number of minority individuals are being targeted by police. And, when you factor in unlawful killings, the imbalance becomes painfully obvious.

Not wanting to add to the unnecessarily high death toll, Stephen Mader of the Weirton Police Department refused to fire his weapon at an African American suspect - and was subsequently struck off. However, after a wrongful-termination lawsuit was filed, Mader was found to have acted accordingly and has been awarded a huge payout.

police car lights Credit: Pexels

The incident in question happened back in 2016, when Mader - who is white - answered a call to attend to RJ Williams, a 23-year old black man who was reported to be suicidal. When Mader turned up at the scene, he found Williams holding a gun. However, he determined that the 23-year-old wasn't an immediate threat to him or any other officers present, and therefore refused to use force.

"He wasn’t angry," Mader said in an interview with the Guardian. "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."

It was Williams' girlfriend who had called the police, and she'd done so because the young man was threatening to hurt himself - not anyone else.

Mader did draw his gun in order to coax Williams into dropping his, said that the suicidal man was "choked up", and told Mader: "I can't do that. Just shoot me." But the officer refused.

Tragically, while Mader was trying to convince Williams to drop the weapon, which was later discovered to be unloaded, two other officers arrived on the scene and fatally shot him.

Center: Mader Credit: Facebook/City of Weirton

Mader was subsequently dismissed from his position for his actions (or lack thereof) in this case, as well as two previous incidents in which he was deemed to have behaved inappropriately.

The first account of Mader "failing to meet probationary standards of an officer" happened when the officer allegedy entered a vehicle without a warrant. However, the officer claims that he was simply writing a parking ticket for a vehicle.

The second incident involved Mader and other officers, in a case where they apparently failed to report an elderly woman's death as suspicious. Again, the officer had a valid excuse, and said that all officers on the scene had been told by emergency responders that the lady had died of natural causes. She was later discovered to have been the victim of a homicide.

Credit: Getty

This week, however, the Weirton Police Department agreed to pay $175,000 to settle a wrongful-termination lawsuit, effectively exonerating Mader of his "inappropriate" conduct. It's a sad sign of the times when an officer is punished for not shooting someone in the first place, but at least Mader saw some sort of justice from the situation.

"At the end of the day, I'm happy to put this chapter of my life to bed," he said in a news release. "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."

If anything, law enforcement should be encouraging more officers to be like Mader, and to carefully assess a situation before using needless force.