Photo: (Left)Good Ex-Police Officer Stephen Mader and (Right) Good Human and Profesional Caregiver RJ Williams who is the victim of police brutality/ Courtesy of Williams Family/Hollywood Insider YouTube Channel
This is why the Black Lives Matter movement is URGENT, needed and valid. What started as a normal spring morning in Weirton, West Virginia became an event that shook America to its core. RJ Williams, a black man, became yet another statistic in the growing population of black men killed by police officers for no good reason. And the cop who tried to deescalate the situation by not firing his gun and showing this community that police officers are there to help and not hurt – what happened to him?
That good police officer, the rookie officer, Officer Stephen Mader was fired for not shooting the innocent black man named RJ Williams. RJ Williams was a caregiver by profession, he provided care to differently-abled residents at Allegheny Valley School – just throwing that in there in case someone wanted to wrongfully think of him as a “thug”. He was a kind human. The only thug in this story is the police officer who wrongfully killed an innocent man.
Hopefully, once you read the entire article, you will realize that there is a horrendous problem of police brutality and thus recognize the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement.
‘I don’t want to shoot you brother!”
It all started with a phone call. At 2:51 a.m. on May 6, 2016.
A woman named Bethany Gilmer sounded hysterical on the phone as she told the dispatcher that she needed help. Her ex-boyfriend R.J. Williams, who feared the loss of his son over their break-up, had shown up at her house with a gun and threatened to kill himself. She made sure to tell the dispatcher that the gun was NOT loaded, she ALSO told the dispatcher that Williams had taken the magazine out of the gun, so there were no bullets in THAT gun, insisting to the police that there was no need to harm Williams.
For the purposes of this article, we are going to constantly attach the word Officer to Mader – as it IS important.
Officer Stephen Mader responded to the call. Officer Mader was born and raised in Weirton. Cops hate responding to domestic crime calls. They’re normally emotionally charged and most of the time they involve weapons. Officer Mader prepared himself mentally as he arrived at the house. Officer Mader said to himself, “I just tried to keep myself as calm as I could. I tried not to get too excited, because then it’s easier to make a mistake.”
The dispatcher had mentioned the weapon to Officer Mader but did not include the fact that the gun was empty as correctly notified by Gilmer.
Williams was standing outside and appeared distressed.
“Put your hands up,” said Officer Mader.
Williams at first refused.
“Put your f***ing hands up!”, yelled Officer Mader.
Williams asked Officer Mader NOT to curse at him by asking, “Why you gotta cuss at me?”
A criminal, someone who means to do harm, does not ask an officer NOT to curse at him.
Someone who needs help and who wants to be treated like a human asks someone not to curse at them.
Williams then complied, raising his hands to reveal his gun.
Officer Mader asked Williams to put the gun down.
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Some of the cases of police brutality we see in the news have defining phrases attached to them, usually said by the victim. “I can’t breathe,” said by both Eric Garner and George Floyd is the one that immediately comes to mind for most people. “I can’t breathe” is also the chant of the Black Lives Matter movement.
In this case, that phrase was said by Officer Mader, “I don’t want to shoot you brother.”
The word “brother” has such power in that line.
Officer Mader was acknowledging that Williams wasn’t a thug or a criminal. This was Officer Mader insisting that Williams was a human being worthy of a second chance. Williams’ next words were, “Just shoot me.”
Officer Mader explained to the Guardian, “He wasn’t angry. He wasn’t aggressive, he didn’t seem in a position to want to use a gun against anybody. He never pointed it at me. I didn’t perceive him as an imminent threat.”
A good police officer who ACTUALLY wanted to “Protect and Serve”
Officer Mader is an Iraq and Afghanistan War veteran. The most telling story from his time in battle is the story of his beloved dog Max – a golden lab. Officer Mader rescued Max off the battlefield. He showed his abilities to care and trust through nursing this dog while serving his country. Officer Mader instilled in Max the same leadership skills and instinct he was taught to have from childhood. Officer Max was one day trusted enough by the platoon to lead them in a convoy. Officer Mader’s training of Max reveals everything about Mader’s character. He is trusting and sees the potential in something others might dismiss as unworthy or even a lost cause. He is a leader who enables others to be the same way.
Officer Mader recognized the good human in Wiliams.
Officer Mader realized when Williams said, “Just shoot me,” that Williams did not intend on harming anyone else that day.
Officer Mader knew it from the quiver in his voice and the tear stains on his face.
Williams was trying to commit suicide. The woman who called 911, Bethany Gilmer, later explained that Williams and she had a baby together but they separated after Gilmer’s post-partum depression and Williams’ anxiety started causing problems in the relationship.
Gilmer had rarely allowed Williams to visit the baby but the night before that fateful morning, she had decided to give him a chance. Williams showed up later than the agreed-upon time and was drunk. Williams was argumentative and things quickly got physical. Williams then threatened to kill himself in front of Gilmer and the baby before REMOVING the magazine of bullets from the gun. Gilmer said she knew Williams was going to attempt suicide after he did that.
Officer Mader utilized his abilities to de-escalate the situation. He knew Williams was not a threat or danger to anyone. Except for Williams himself.
Two veteran police officers arrived at the house for back-up, Officer Ryan Kuzma and Officer Michael Baker. They had heard the dispatch call, and knowing that Officer Mader is new to the job, they assumed he would need help. The two of them had never been involved in a shooting either.
Within ten seconds of the two veteran officers’ arrival, shots were fired, the non-threatening Williams was shot and killed immediately. Officer Mader did not fire his gun. Officer Kuzma fired his gun.
This is WHY the Black Lives Matter movement is necessary
This was CLEARLY an incident that did not call for or need the usage of weapons from the three officers. Officer Mader was right in his assessment. Baker screamed at Officer Mader to be careful but Mader knew what he was dealing with. The only person in danger at the scene was Williams. That’s when the gunshots were fired.
Officer Mader estimates it had been ten seconds between when Kuzma and Williams arrived at the scene and when shots were fired.
When Officer Baker reached the fallen black man, he found the gun, and it was empty. The gun had NO bullets – exactly what Bethany Gilmer had told the dispatcher. Officer Mader’s assessment of the situation was completely correct, Williams was not a danger to anyone. Officer Mader’s decision to NOT shoot at non-threatening Williams was completely correct – Williams was not a threat to anyone else except himself.
Then an arriving lieutenant, per protocol, handcuffed Williams’ dead body. And someone threw a white sheet over it.
Ten days after the legal murder of an innocent black man, due to police brutality, an event that has almost never been heard of happened in America’s gruesome history of police shootings – the police department fired the officer for what he did in the fatal shooting.
Do you think Officer Kuzma who killed the innocent black man was fired? No. NO. Nope.
Officer Mader, the one who REFUSED to shoot and kill the innocent black man was FIRED.
Ten days later, Officer Mader was fired for NOT shooting a black man. The reason the police department gave in writing was “Making any decision is better than making no decision at all.”
But Officer Mader was doing something. Deescalation is DOING EVERYTHING.
He was trying to deescalate the situation and save a man’s life.
Related article: Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us is about racially targeted attacks on innocent African-American Boys Due To The Law Being Infested With Systemic Prejudice and shows why the Black Lives Matter movement is needed.
At the Weirton Police Department, gossip had infested everyone, Officer Mader was nicknamed “coward”. Officers Kuzma and Baker and other members of the police force had, in writing, asked the chief of their department, to never assign them to work with “coward” Officer Mader again as he was deemed too “scared” to kill the innocent black man. Officer Kuzma sent a text to Officer Mader – “You’re nothing but a coward”. After being fired Ex-Officer Mader enrolled into training school to become a long-haul truck driver – Officer Kuzma showed up there to confront Ex-Officer Mader.
Ex-Officer Mader told an angry Officer Kuzma, “If I were to have shot that kid, I wouldn’t have felt justified. It’s just – I wouldn’t feel right living with it.”
Officer Kuzma responded to his ex-colleague’s reasoning by retorting, “Well, then you should never have been a cop.”
Ex-Officer Stephen Mader later sued his former employer for wrongful termination as his attorney Timothy O’Brien stated, “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.”
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Ex-Officer Mader’s previous employers, the police department, settled for $175,000. The city did attempt to shift blame by stating that Ex-Officer Mader was fired for two prior incidents – and not the refusal to shoot. However, Ex-Officer Mader’s termination letter clearly reprimands Mader for not shooting – it was written multiple times.
Black Lives Matter Movement is URGENT
We have respect for Officer Stephen Mader.
But this is infuriating. Clearly good cops do exist – but why are the good cops being fired for refusing to shoot a non-threatening black person?
And what about RJ Williams? What about his child that is now forced to grow up without a father due to police brutality?
The fact that this police officer was fired for NOT shooting a black person, brings little comfort, as an alarming and distressing number of black people have been killed by police officers that abused their power. Clearly, the Black Lives Matter movement is important and much needed. Police reform now.
RJ Williams’ grandmother Ivory Williams wrote to then-attorney general Loretta Lynch, “I don’t want this incredible and tragic incident set aside and forgotten. The family needs answers, and most of all we need justice for R.J.”
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RJ Williams came from a loyal family, made of mixed races which earned them the nickname “the rainbow family” as they were a bunch of “blacks, Mexicans and whites”. Williams was the sixth child of matriarch Ida Poole. Williams took care of the differently-abled residents of his workplace, feeding, bathing and entertaining them. He kept them SAFE. As mentioned by his sisters to ProPublica, “A handsome and infectiously charming young man. He had one of the prettier smiles of all the siblings”. Williams was present at the birth of his son Tre, and his sisters saw the newborn infant grab his father’s finger. His sister Natasha Ault told ProPublica, “He changed his son, he ate with his son, he slept with his son.”
It was the fear of losing his son Tre due to the fallout with Gilmer, which really threw Williams into depression. This was a good father who was terrified of losing his son. Due to police brutality, his son Tre has lost the physical presence of a loving father.
Ex-Officer Mader’s last act to save a good human cost him his job. But his heartwarming kindness to see Williams as a PERSON and nothing else, has earned him respect with Williams’ family. Williams’ sister Amanda said, “It really touched me, because at that point I realized that my brother wasn’t alone, that there was someone there that was looking at him as a person. So I found him (Mader) on Facebook, and I ended up messaging him on Messenger, just to thank him for what he did for my brother, and for being there for him.”
Mader replied that he “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.”
“MY BROTHER WOULD STILL BE ALIVE.”
Let that statement enter your heart – BLACK LIVES MATTER.
Hollywood Insider’s CEO/editor-in-chief Pritan Ambroase affirms, “Hollywood Insider fully supports the much-needed Black Lives Matter movement. We are actively, physically and digitally a part of this global movement. We will continue reporting on this major issue of police brutality and legal murders of black people to hold the system accountable. We will continue reporting on this major issue with kindness and respect to all black people, as each and every one of them are seen and heard. Just a reminder, that the Black Lives Matter movement is about more than just police brutality and extends into banking, housing, education, medical, infrastructure, etc. We have the space and time for all your stories. We believe in peaceful/non-violent protests and I would like to request the rest of media to focus on 95% of the protests that are peaceful and working effectively with positive changes happening daily. Media has a responsibility to better the world and Hollywood Insider will continue to do so.”
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