It seems nearly impossible for cops to be charged with a crime when they shoot and kill Black people much less get fired. But have you ever heard of a cop being fired for NOT shooting a Black man? In a recent lawsuit filed by former West Virginia police officer Stephen Mader, he alleges that he was terminated to help cover up excessive force used in the murder of an obviously distraught 23-year-old.
Last May, Mader responded to a frantic 911 call about a domestic dispute where he found Ronald "RJ" Williams visibly upset. When Mader discovered that Williams had a gun, he commanded him to put it down. The young man then uttered three words that let Mader know that he wasn't a real threat to anybody else: "Just shoot me." The officer proceeded to try to talk the young man down.
The situation took an ugly turn when officer Ryan Kuzma arrived on the scene and immediately started shooting. He fired four shots with the last of those fatally wounding Williams in the head. Even though Mader's assessment was correct, it was Kuzma's job that was spared--not Mader's.
By all accounts, the former Marine Corps veteran was just doing his job. The original 911 call from Williams' girlfriend reported that he was waving a knife and threatening to hurt himself. The gun that Williams had was not loaded. Mader's military training helped him determine that Williams' request to be shot was a sign of depression, not aggression. Even with all of that, Hancock County prosecutors ruled the shooting justified. And on June 7, 2016, Mader got his walking papers stating that he "failed to eliminate a threat."
The lawsuit offers a completely different account saying that they "terminated Mr. Mader's employment because his decision not to use deadly force to shoot and kill a suicidal African American male, made or could have construed to make Officer Kuzma's use of deadly force appear unreasonable or excessive under the circumstances."
It says a lot about the kind of society we live in when a cop has to defend not shooting a man who was not a threat to anyone other than himself. Mader made the right call because Williams didn't have to die. "He needed help," Mader said. But thanks to Officer Kuzma and the racists who back him, Williams didn't get it. Now let's see if either of these men gets justice.