When police officers refuse to kill

This week, APM Reports’ Curtis Gilbert unveiled an excellent piece of work looking at the lack of training police officers are provided on how not to kill.

Gilbert didn’t include the case of Stephen Mader, a cop who was happy to get the job in his hometown when he returned from serving two tours in Afghanistan as a Marine.

Mader is out of a job in Weirton, W.Va., now because he refused to kill a man.

But Ronald J. Williams is dead anyway because other officers didn’t see what Gilbert did, based on his experiences in the military. Williams wasn’t a threat to the police; he was despondent.

“He wasn’t screaming, yelling, he wasn’t angry. He just seemed distraught. Whenever he told me to shoot him it was as if he was pleading with me,” Mader tells NBC News. “At first, I’m thinking, ‘Do I really need to shoot this guy?’ But after hearing ‘just shoot me’ and his demeanor, it was, ‘I definitely can’t.'”

Mader had made a “connection” with Williams. He was de-escalating the situation.

He said that he was trying to talk Williams into putting the gun down. “Everything was verbal,” he said. That’s when Mader and Williams both saw the police cruiser driving up the road. And in that moment, when Mader lost his connection with Williams, everything changed.

The officers stepped out of their cruiser. Williams started waving his empty gun around in the air. Then, within seconds, gunfire. Williams fell to the ground with a bullet in his head.

A little more than a week later Mader got word that the department would be conducting an investigation into the shooting. He was placed on administrative leave. Then, weeks later, he was fired. Mader said he never once was interviewed or questioned about what he did, didn’t do or why. Since then he hasn’t had any contact with anyone from the department. But after his story became national news, officers from across the country and around the globe have sent their well wishes.

“I wouldn’t change anything. Even after them saying that I failed to eliminate a threat and that it should have been handled differently, I still believe I did the right thing,” Mader said. “And a lot of people think I did the right thing, too. I know it’s not just me.”

Today, Mader filed a lawsuit against the city.

“When given the tragic, and, far too frequent unnecessary use of deadly force, such restraint should be praised not penalized,” his attorney said. “To tell a police officer, when in doubt either shoot to kill, or get fired, is a choice that no police officer should ever have to make and is a message that is wrong and should never be sent.”

(h/t: Bryan Reynolds)

From the archive: What went wrong in Roseville mental health police call? (NewsCuty)