In the case of the death at the hands of police of R.J. Williams, it all started with a domestic disturbance call by Williams’ girlfriend. Arriving first on the scene, Mader came upon Williams, who had his hands behind his back. The officer quickly asked Williams to show him his hands. Williams complied, revealing a gun. Immediately, Mader ordered Williams to drop his weapon. But Williams refused, repeatedly for Mader to “just shoot me.”
In that moment, Mader did not see a man with a gun. He saw a human being in crisis. Mader deduced that Williams was not what he might appear — a danger to others and to a responding officer alike. Mader saw that Williams was trying to commit “suicide by cop.”
Rather than shoot, Mader returned to his military training and attempted to de-escalate the situation. He softened his voice, looked Williams in the eye, and said, “I’m not going to shoot you, brother. I’m not going to shoot you.” With those words, Officer Mader connected to the humanity of Williams, a man in deep distress.
While Mader continued his attempt to convince Williams to drop his weapon, two other officers arrived on the scene. In a matter of seconds, one of the newly arrived officers fired four shots, killing Williams. It was at that point the officers discovered that Williams’ gun was unloaded. Stephen Mader was correct. R.J. Williams was not a threat, but it didn’t matter. He was dead.
Weeks later, the Weirton Police Department fired Stephen Mader.