US police
File photo iStock

A former police officer in the West Virginia city of Weirton has won a $175,000 settlement after he he was dismissed for not shooting a man he thought was suicidal.

The case stemmed back to May 2016 when Stephen Mader had responded to a domestic disturbance and at the scene he saw R. J. Williams, who had a gun. During a stand-off, Williams told Mader to shoot him.

But Mader believed that Williams was attempting to "commit suicide by cop" and tried to calm the situation.

However, two other officers arrived on the scene with one of them opening fire and killing Williams, whose gun was not loaded.

Mader was put on probation and then later fired. In May 2017, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in West Virginia and the Law Office of Timothy O'Brien sued the city of Weirton on behalf of Mader, arguing that his termination was in violation of West Virginia public policy.

"We are pleased that Mr. Mader's case has been successfully resolved, but this should never have happened," lead counsel, Timothy O'Brien said. "No police officer should ever lose their job or have their name dragged through the mud for choosing to talk to, rather than shoot, a fellow citizen.

"Mr Mader is a Marine and Afghanistan war veteran who served his country and community with competence and courage. His decision to attempt to de-escalate the situation should have been praised not punished. Simply put no police officer should ever feel forced to take a life unnecessarily to save his career."

Executive Director of ACLU-WV, Joseph Cohen, said: "The termination of Stephen Mader was yet another incident exposing the toxic culture that infects far too many police departments in America.

"We need to give law enforcement officers tools to effectively serve their communities. That means we need to invest in de-escalation training, implicit bias training, and crisis intervention training.

"Hopefully the resolution of this lawsuit will send a message to the City of Weirton and police departments across the country that our communities deserve thoughtful, compassionate, and transparent law enforcement."