Former Cop Says Refusal to Shoot Didn’t Merit Firing

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By Jon Steingart

A police officer who determined he shouldn’t shoot a man holding a gun was wrongfully fired by a West Virginia town for failing to eliminate a threat, the head of the civil rights group representing him told Bloomberg BNA ( Mader v. City of Weirton , N.D. W.Va., No. 5:17-cv-00061, complaint filed 5/10/17 ).

“We far too often hear stories about African-American men who are killed by the hands of police officers,” said Joseph Cohen, executive director of the ACLU of West Virginia. “Here we had a police officer who did everything that we want a police officer to do.”

Former Weirton, W.Va., officer Stephen Mader was responding to a domestic dispute when he determined Ronald Williams was attempting “suicide by cop.” He concluded that Williams intended to harm himself but not others, according to a lawsuit filed May 10 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia. A second officer who arrived at the scene a few minutes later shot and killed Williams.

Mader’s firing violated state and federal public policy because shooting Williams would have been an unlawful use of unreasonable force, according to the complaint.

The city of Weirton declined to comment specifically on the matter, saying in a May 11 statement emailed to Bloomberg BNA that it “hasn’t received a copy of the lawsuit or been made aware of any allegations.”

Timothy O’Brien in Pittsburgh and Jamie Lynn Crofts of the ACLU of West Virginia Foundation in Charleston, W.Va., represent Mader. An attorney hasn’t entered an appearance for the city.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jon Steingart in Washington at jsteingart@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com; Christopher Opfer at copfer@bna.com

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