A former Weirton, W.Va., police officer filed a lawsuit against the city Wednesday, claiming that he was fired for allegedly endangering colleagues after he opted not to shoot and kill a man who had brandished a gun during a domestic dispute.
According to Reuters, Stephen Mader, the former cop in question, responded to the dispute at the home of R.J. Williams in May 2016 after Williams’ girlfriend said that he threatened to harm himself.
Williams was holding a firearm and repeatedly told Mader to shoot him, the lawsuit, which was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia, noted.
Mader ordered Williams to drop the gun. However, two other police officers arrived at the scene, and one of them shot Williams in the head, killing him.
Mader said that he was certain Williams was no threat to others but was suicidal.
“He didn’t appear angry or aggressive,” Mader said in a statement by the West Virginia ACLU. “As a Marine vet that served in Afghanistan and as an active member of the National Guard, all my training told me he was not a threat to others or me. I was just doing my job.”
It was later discovered that the gun Williams was holding was not loaded, the West Virginia ACLU notes. The Weirton Police Department put Mader on administrative leave and later fired him for putting other officers at risk, the lawsuit claims.
City officials stated back in September that Mader was fired for “conduct unbecoming an officer” after a series of unrelated incidents, adding that he had endangered the community by showing “careless disregard” for his job. The city also said that Mader’s handling of the incident somehow led to Williams’ death, claiming that Mader escalated the situation by using profanity before weapons were drawn.
However, Joseph Cohen, executive director of the state ACLU, says that city officials are just looking to ruin Mader’s reputation through false allegations.
“The Weirton Police Department so deeply misunderstands Stephen Mader’s sensible attempt to prevent violence and death that it kicked him off the force and then publicly attacked his character when he spoke out,” Cohen said in the ACLU statement.
Read more at Reuters.