A police department in Indiana has launched an internal investigation after a firefighter said he was thrown to the ground and threatened with a Taser for waving at several officers, who thought he was flipping them off.
Evansville firefighter George Madison Jr. told the Evansville Courier & Press that he filed a formal complaint over the incident that happened on Tuesday. Madison, who also serves as a youth pastor at at Memorial Baptist Church, said that he was riding his bicycle on South Weinbach Avenue when he waved at several officers in a patrol car.
The next thing he knew, the officers had pulled him over.
“The officer jumped out and says, ‘What are you doing throwing your hands up at us?’” Madison recalled. “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 that he knew Evansville Police Chief Billy Bolin from community events, so he took out his cellphone to call him for help calming the situation. But the officer told him to put the phone down. And when he hesitated, the Taser came out.
“It was literally maybe inches from my face,” the father of four 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.”
“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.'”
After the officers asked him where he worked, their attitudes changed, Madison said.
The Courier & Press identified the officers as Darin Clifton and Jason Clegg, whose report says that Madison “flipped” them off after he ran a stop sign.
Chief Bolin explained to WTVW that he didn’t want to “discredit George at all,” 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.”
Evansville NAACP President Rev. Gerald Arnold told WTVW that he was “not in shock because it does happen.”
“Some things are not going to change until Jesus comes,” Arnold pointed out. “You’re always going to have that one bad apple unfortunately.”
In a Facebook post, Madison said that he didn’t think the fact that he was black and the officers were white had anything to do with the incident, according to WFIE. But he does think they 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 remarked. “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.”
Watch this video from WFIE, broadcast Aug. 14, 2013.