Firefighter says police handcuffed, threatened him for waving at officer

PD Chief: Dept. investigating complaint

EVANSVILLE, Ind. - An Evansville firefighter has filed a formal complaint against a police officer who stopped him during a bicycle ride Tuesday afternoon, threatened him with a stun gun and handcuffed him.

George Madison Jr., 38, who is also a youth pastor, said he feared for his safety during the stop, the Evansville Courier and Press reported.

According to the police department's dispatch report, the officers stopped Madison after he "failed to stop on his bike" at an intersection and "raised his right arm (at officers) in an apparent aggravated manor (sic)."

Madison admitted that he was not going to stop at the intersection, but he said the officer startled him by making a sudden left turn in front of him.

"He did it real fast," Madison told the Evansville newspaper. "I thought it was one of the guys (police) I knew."

Madison said he has met many police officers through his job and participating in local police/fire events, so he raised his hand to wave at the officers.

But Madison said he did not know the officers who stopped him.

"The officer jumped out and says, 'What are you doing throwing your hands up at us?'" Madison told the paper. "He is talking to me as he is coming toward me. I tried to explain, but I couldn't get a word in edgewise."

Madison said he knew Evansville Police Chief Billy Bolin from their community involvement, so he started to use his cellphone to call Bolin, hoping to diffuse the situation.

The officer told Madison to put the phone down then, according to the department's report, "Madison refused to put his phone down and… postured up and pulled his arm back in an aggressive manor (sic)."

Reacting to the perceived aggression, the officer pulled out his stun gun, the report said.

"I remember looking down the barrel of a Taser, because (the officer) was gritting his teeth and saying, 'Don't make me pull this trigger,'" Madison said.

Madison said the officer asked him his name, date of birth and place of employment.

"Once they found out I was a fireman, their attitude changed," he said.

At that point the officers allowed him to come to his knees. He said the officer began trying to engage him in conversation, but Madison said he became wary of the conversation's turn.

"At first I was talking to them. Then I said, 'I don't have anything else to say to you,"' he said. "Finally, they asked me if I had calmed down, and I kept telling them I was never out of sorts."

Madison said the officer explained to him that, for all he knew, Madison could have been trying to call others to the scene. Madison said he tried to explain his perspective as a young, black male.

"It is experiences like these that people hold onto," Madison said. "I refuse to allow a bad experience that I have with one person or officer to change my perception. I just refuse to allow this experience to make me feel any different."

But Madison said he also believes he can't ignore what happened, and that the officers should be held accountable.

"I don't want this man to lose his job or weeks of pay, but I have to look at it from the standpoint of, I have a family to think about. I shouldn't feel bad for standing up for my own rights," he said. "The fact that I am a firefighter or preacher doesn't make a difference. All anybody wants is to be treated like a human being."

Bolin said Madison has met with the department's internal affairs division to file a formal complaint.

Officers will investigate the complaint and make a recommendation to him, Bolin said.

According to a statement released by the police department Wednesday, the investigation began that morning.

Bolin said Wednesday he had not spoken with the officers involved.

"I need to stay impartial until I hear both sides," Bolin said.

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