This Marine Vet Was Fired As A Cop For Following His Military Instincts

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U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Owen Kimbrel

For several moments, Stephen Mader and 23-year-old Ronald Williams were alone in Williams’ front yard in Weirton, West Virginia, each man with a gun in his hand.


A recent NPR profile details the events of May 6 that ended with Williams dead, and led to Mader being fired for refusing to shoot him.

Mader, 25-year-old Marine veteran and rookie cop, was riding solo that night. Williams, who was black, had been in a fight with his girlfriend. She called the police.

When Mader arrived, he told NPR, he found Williams in the front yard of the house, his hands behind his back.

"And I say, 'Show me your hands,' and he's like, 'Naw, I can't do that,' " Mader told NPR. "I said, 'Show me your f'ing hands.' And then he brings his hands from behind his back and puts them down to his side. And that's when I noticed he had a silver pistol in his right hand."

But Mader refused to shoot him. An Afghan war veteran, he had been trained by the military to only shoot when you see hostile intent. He says he didn’t see that from Williams."Before you go to Afghanistan, they give you training," Mader told NPR. "You need to be able to kind of read people. Not everybody over there is a bad guy, but they all dress the same. That's kind of what the situation was that night."

Instead, he tried to de-escalate the situation.

“I told him, ‘Put down the gun,’ and he’s like, ‘Just shoot me.’ And I told him, ‘I’m not going to shoot you brother.’ Then he starts flicking his wrist to get me to react to it,” Mader told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in September.

"For me, it wasn't enough to kind of take someone's life because they're holding a gun that's not pointed at me," Mader said in the NPR interview.

But when backup arrived, all they saw was the two men with guns: Mader’s pointed at Williams, and Williams waving his around. One of the responding officers fired four shots, including a fatal one that struck Williams in the side of the head.

Mader was right. There wasn’t a clip in Williams’ gun. Inside the house with their child, his girlfriend had told the dispatcher, "My ex-boyfriend's here. He has a gun. He doesn't have a clip in the gun. There's no clip in the gun. He's drunk. He's drunk. He took the clip out of the gun and he said he was going to threaten the police with it just so they would shoot him. He does not have a clip in the gun."

But the dispatcher failed to relay that information to responding officers.

Mader doesn’t fault his fellow officers for their decision to open fire, he says they did not have the information he had.

But when he got back to work, Mader was told he needed to go see the Weirton Chief of Police Rob Alexander.

Mader said Alexander told him, “We’re putting you on administrative leave and we’re going to do an investigation to see if you are going to be an officer here. You put two other officers in danger.”

A month later, he received a notice of termination that also included details of two other perceived infractions.

"If I had maybe 30 more seconds, maybe it would've went different," Mader said in the NPR interview. "Maybe I could have talked him down and just put him in handcuffs that night."

But Mader refused to shoot him. An Afghan war veteran, he had been trained by the military to only shoot when you see hostile intent. He says he didn’t see that from Williams.

"Before you go to Afghanistan, they give you training," Mader told NPR. "You need to be able to kind of read people. Not everybody over there is a bad guy, but they all dress the same. That's kind of what the situation was that night."

Instead, he tried to de-escalate the situation.

“I told him, ‘Put down the gun,’ and he’s like, ‘Just shoot me.’ And I told him, ‘I’m not going to shoot you brother.’ Then he starts flicking his wrist to get me to react to it,” Mader told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in September.

"For me, it wasn't enough to kind of take someone's life because they're holding a gun that's not pointed at me," Mader said in the NPR interview.

But when backup arrived, all they saw was the two men with guns: Mader’s pointed at Williams, and Williams waving his around. One of the responding officers fired four shots, including a fatal one that struck Williams in the side of the head.

Mader was right. There wasn’t a clip in Williams’ gun. Inside the house with their child, his girlfriend had told the dispatcher, "My ex-boyfriend's here. He has a gun. He doesn't have a clip in the gun. There's no clip in the gun. He's drunk. He's drunk. He took the clip out of the gun and he said he was going to threaten the police with it just so they would shoot him. He does not have a clip in the gun."

But the dispatcher failed to relay that information to responding officers.

Mader doesn’t fault his fellow officers for their decision to open fire, he says they did not have the information he had.

But when he got back to work, Mader was told he needed to go see the Weirton Chief of Police Rob Alexander.

Mader said Alexander told him, “We’re putting you on administrative leave and we’re going to do an investigation to see if you are going to be an officer here. You put two other officers in danger.”

A month later, he received a notice of termination that also included details of two other perceived infractions.

"If I had maybe 30 more seconds, maybe it would've went different," Mader said in the NPR interview. "Maybe I could have talked him down and just put him in handcuffs that night."

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