Weirton city officials defend officer’s firing

Weirton City Manager Travis Blosser, along with Police Chief Rob Alexander, held a news conference on Tuesday to share their side of the story concerning the termination of a Weirton city police officer (WTOV).

Weirton city officials fired back Tuesday, just days after a story came out in a Pittsburgh newspaper they called “factually inaccurate,” centering around the termination of former Weirton Police Officer Stephen Mader.

The story, which Weirton officials did not participate in, was headlined: “Weirton terminates officer who did not fire at man with gun.”

It references the May 6, officer-involved shooting death of Ronald Williams Jr. of Pennsylvania after he allegedly brandished a gun at police in a Weirton home.

Mader’s employment with the department was terminated in early June, and he told the newspaper he was let go because he “failed to eliminate a threat,” in reference to the shooting.

Not so, says Weirton City Manager Travis Blosser, who chastised the paper for delivering what he called “a story, and not an article based on the facts.”

“There were multiple issues that led to the former officer’s termination,” Blosser said.

Those were:

-Searching a vehicle without probable cause or search warrant, which led to a man being arrested for disorderly conduct for cursing.

-Ruling a death to be natural causes when, in fact, the scene showed it to be a homicide investigation. The medical examiner had ruled the death to be blunt force trauma. Because of Mader’s actions, the city says, evidence was moved from its original location, thereby contaminating the potential crime scene.

-And, of course, the Williams’ shooting, in which officials concluded Mader was not de-escalating the situation, but rather escalating it though his use of profanity before any weapon was drawn. They also concluded Mader “froze” on the scene and did not communicate with other officers involved.

The city manager said the shooting incident was simply the latest in a series of missteps by Mader.

“I think that we would look at the fact that his termination revolved around three major incidents to us,” Blosser said. “Two of those major incidents qualified him for termination. The third just seemed to happen right after those two. We had done different avenues in terms of retraining, placing him with a different training officer. None of those seemed to work.”

Weirton Police Chief Rob Alexander said it’s “a disgruntled employee doing a one-sided story,” which led to the displacement of facts.

“His own statement contradicts his tale to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,” Alexander said.

Blosser cited Civil Service protections as a way in which Mader could have appealed.

“This officer was afforded every opportunity,” Alexander said. “These incidents that we’re talking about occurred over a 3-month period. We went by the book on our civil service rules and requirements that are required to terminate an employee. We had started the process and he was given every opportunity all the way up through.”

“There was nothing there for him to defend. We were right in what we did, and he was wrong in what he did,” Alexander said, again, a reference to the article.

“What’s disappointing is the phone call and the hateful messages and the emails that we have received today are just dumbfounding to me,” Alexander said. “All based on a one-sided statement. That’s changed my outlook on a lot of things. That’s devastating.”

In the Post-Gazette article, Officer Mader says that the officers' actions in the shooting were justified, the same conclusion reached by city and state investigators.

We've reached out to Mader for comment but he has not yet responded.

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