Owner of Iconic Madeline Island Tavern Alleging Police Brutality

Tom's Burned Down Cafe Owner Files Federal Lawsuit

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The owner of the iconic Tom’s Burned Down Café on Madeline Island has filed a federal lawsuit against the town of La Pointe, its police chief, and its chairman, for alleged police brutality following his arrest last August.

Tom Nelson claims La Point Police Chief William Defoe violated Nelson’s 4th amendment rights when he entered his home without a warrant or probable cause, and used unreasonable and excessive force.

“The 4th amendment is the right to be safe in your home,” Glenn Stoddard explained.  “But also, the 4th amendment protects people against excessive force by the police, unreasonable seizure, unreasonable arrests.

The arrest, from start to finish, was caught on video from a body camera worn by Chief Defoe.

“It makes it very clear what happened and there’s really no disputing it,” Stoddard said.

The video shows Defoe tasing Nelson three times.

“What he was told to do and what he did do was flagrantly illegal,” said Stoddard.

All three times, in front of his wife and two children, ages 3 and 7.

“A tasers a pretty serious assault on a person, it immobilizes an individual,” Stoddard explained.

He does not believe the tasing was appropriate for the circumstances.

“If a police officer is being attacked, or is dealing with someone who is actually resisting and may be hurting them, then there’s a spectrum of force that the police can use,” said Stoddard.

Nelson’s arrest was made following a “minor incident” with his cousin, and Town Chairman, Gregory Nelson, who is also supervisor of the La Pointe Police Department.

“It was basically a fender bender,” Stoddard said.

Tom and Greg Nelson have a long history of not getting along.

“There’s a long-time and well-known Nelson family feud on the island, and until this incident, the police have not gotten involved in taking sides,” added Stoddard.

Stoddard says the video will play a major role as the litigation unfolds.

“In this situation we have a video, so there’s no doubt what happened,” he said.

The La Pointe Police Department and town leaders are not commenting on the case at this time.

Tom Nelson was originally charged with five offenses following his arrest, including disorderly conduct, and operating while intoxicated, all which were dropped later through a plea deal. 

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