Half-naked drunken man jumped into Yahara River, Madison police say

October 3, 2018

A man kicked out of an East Side bar Tuesday night jumped into the Yahara River, took off the bottom half of his clothes and swam four blocks to Lake Monona before coming out of the river and getting arrested.

William Odenweller, 36, no permanent address, was tentatively charged with lewd and lascivious behavior-exposure, disorderly conduct and unlawful trespass, Madison police said.

The series of incidents started at about 11:30 p.m. at Mickey’s Tavern, 1524 Williamson Street.

“The suspect decided to launch himself into other patrons while attempting to get a mosh pit going during a live music performance,” said police spokesman Joel DeSpain. “He was urged to calm down, and when he didn’t calm down, he was escorted out of the bar.”

Once outside, Odenweller allegedly exposed himself to a female bartender who helped get him outside. He then tried to get back into the bar but people inside locked the door to keep him out.

A police officer called to the scene found Odenweller near the river.

“He tried to talk to the man to get him away from the water, but he yelled out an expletive and jumped in,” DeSpain said. “Fearing the man would drown, the officer called for the Madison Fire Department to come to the scene.”

Firefighters were joined by a police crisis negotiator and backup officers.

Officers walked along the riverside keeping abreast of Odenweller with the primary officer who first found him shining a flashlight on him to see if he was doing OK.

“The entire time the officer and other first responders were putting plans into motion to save the man from drowning should he go under,” DeSpain said.

“While in the river he swore at the primary officer and at one point threw his shoes at him,” DeSpain said. “The attempt to hit the officer missed wildly, the officer said.”

Odenweller then proceeded to take off his pants and underwear and threw the clothing onto the riverbank, and tried unsuccessfully to take his shirt off. He reached dry land just as he was about to enter Lake Monona.

The primary officer in his report said a firefighter developed a good rapport with Odenweller and convinced him to get out of the water.

“Firefighters wrapped him in a towel, and an officer was able to recover his pants, but never found his underwear or shoes,” DeSpain said. “The wet man was not happy and he berated those who had worked to help him.”

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