An Indiana firefighter who moonlights as a youth pastor at a local Baptist church says he was handcuffed, manhandled, and threaten with a Taser by Evansville police officers — all because he waved hello.
A photo of George Madison Jr. bent over on the ground beside the bicycle he was riding went viral after it was posted on Facebook earlier this week.
According to Madison, he was riding his bike up South Weinbach Avenue on Tuesday afternoon, when two officers in a patrol car suddenly cut in front of him just before an intersection.
Being friendly with many of the EPD officers through his work with the fire department's combat challenge team and related charity events, Madison said he waved at the cops because he thought he recognized one of them.
But it soon became clear that neither of the two officers — later identified as Darin Clifton and Jason Clegg — cared who he was or what he was doing.
"The officer jumped out and says, ‘What are you doing throwing your hands up at us?’," Madison told the Courier Press. "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 believes the cops thought he was flipping them off, and the official run card confirmed it. The card also claims Madison ran a stop sign.
After giving up trying to straighten things out, Madison thought a call to his friend Chief Billy Bolin might be in order.
But as he attempted to dial Bolin, one of the officers ordered him to put his phone down.
Madison hesitated, and the cop grabbed his arm and pulled out his stun gun.
"It was literally maybe inches from my face," Madison recalled. "I immediately threw my hands in the air. What he asked me to do I was more than willing to do. I said ‘Please don’t hurt me.’ The next thing I know I’m laying down the ground and they cuffed me."
It wasn't until Madison revealed his identity and occupation to the officers that they finally eased up, but their changed tune only served to worry Madison more.
"The fact that I am a firefighter or preacher doesn’t make a difference," he said. "All anybody wants is to be treated like a human being."
Chief Bolin told 14 News that his department has launched an investigation into the incident, but refused to voice an opinion.
"I know him, I like him," Bolin said, referring to Madison. " I know the officers involved, I like the officers involved. So, my job is to try to figure out the truth no matter who you like."
[photos via Facebook, Courier Press/Denny Simmons]