(Photo: Facebook/Evansville Firefighter Combat Challenge)
An Evansville, Ind., firefighter and youth pastor at the Memorial Baptist church is now at the center of a controversial incident in that town after he alleged police officers cuffed and threatened him with a stun gun because he waved hello during a bicycle ride on Tuesday.
The firefighter, George Madison Jr., 38, has filed a formal complaint with the Evansville Police Department, according to a report in the Courier Press.
Madison refused to publicly identify the officers involved in the incident, due to an ongoing investigation, but police records indicate the officers as Officer Clifton and Officer Clegg. The two police officers with those last names in the Evansville Police Department are Darin Clifton and Jason Clegg.
A report on Tristate homepage.com said it was a picture showing a man in handcuffs (presumed to be Madison), looking down in defeat with an Evansville police officer standing next to him that sparked the furor. It was later brought to the attention of Evansville Police Chief Billy Bolin who is acquainted with the Christian firefighter.
"I don't mean to discredit George at all," noted Chief Bolin in the report. "But we have to hear all sides and a lot of times both sides may have the same story but just from a different perspective."
Madison reportedly claimed in a Facebook post that he was riding his bicycle on Tuesday when he raised his hand and waved to an EPD patrol car nearby as he is known to do.
According to the report from the officers, however, Madison "flipped" off the officers after he ran a stop sign which prompted them to accost him.
Madison said he tried calling Chief Bolin after the officers became aggressive, but the officers told him to put the phone away so they could talk to him. The officer tried to take the phone away from Madison but he pulled back his arm in an aggressive manor, which prompted one of the officers to pull out a Taser.
"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 told the Courier Press.
"It was literally maybe inches from my face," he said. "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 was like everything had disappeared, and I was there alone and I got scared," he said.
He explained that the officers only softened their aggression toward him once they realized he was a fireman.
"Once they found out I was a fireman their attitude changed," he said.
It was only after learning of his role in the community that the officers allowed the cuffed firefighter to come to his knees and tried engaging him in civil conversation.
"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, who moderated a discussion at his church last year on the shooting of Trayvon Martin and race relations in the Evansville community involving Chief Bolin, said he tried to discuss how experiences like the one he had affects race relations.
"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."
He noted, however, that he could not simply ignore what happened.
"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."