Cop Who Didn't Shoot Man Wishes He'd Had 'a Few More Seconds'

Stephen Mader held back when he thought RJ Williams was trying to do a 'suicide by cop'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 30, 2018 1:18 PM CST
Updated Dec 2, 2018 1:20 PM CST
The Complicated Story of a Cop Fired for Not Shooting a Man
A police officer stands guard inside an area roped off with crime scene tape in an unrelated case.   (AP Photo/Ringo HW Chiu)

A rookie white cop, a young black man shot to death by police, and a firing—but the story doesn't develop in an expected way. Writing for ProPublica, Joe Sexton takes a deep dive into the 2016 shooting of 23-year-old RJ Williams in Weirton, West Virginia. Williams was shot by a police officer after he waved a gun at the officer and another cop who had just arrived on the scene; the gun turned out to be unloaded. Those two officers arrived after newbie officer Stephen Mader, who had been trying to de-escalate the situation because he suspected Williams was trying to pull off a "suicide by cop." Mader said Williams didn't seem like a threat, instead showing a "red flag" of being distraught as he repeatedly asked Mader to "shoot me," gun at his side but not raised. Mader didn't shoot him, but when officers Ryan Kuzma and Michael Baker showed up, Kuzma did.

A Hancock County prosecutor later deemed the shooting of Williams justified, citing a legitimate fear for the officers' safety, and Mader doesn't disagree with that finding: He acknowledges that while he "wouldn't have felt justified" shooting Williams, he understands that Kuzma may have had a different perspective, and that Kuzma fired only when Williams raised the gun. What Mader does take issue with: the fact that he was fired, leading to his lawsuit for wrongful termination. At least one person appreciates what Mader did: Williams' sister, who reached out to Mader on Facebook to thank him for being someone who "was looking at [Williams] as a person" in his final moments. She recounts Mader's reply: "He said that he just wished that he could have had a few more seconds, that he wished it would have turned out different, that my brother would still be alive." Read the full story here. (A teen killed by cops in San Diego called 911 on himself.)

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