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An armed man demanding to talk to Wisconsin's governor was arrested twice in one day

Wisconsin Democratic Gov. Tony Evers speaks at a campaign stop in October 2022, in Milwaukee. A man illegally brought a handgun into the Wisconsin Capitol on Wednesday demanding to see the governor then returned later with an assault rifle after posting bail.
Morry Gash
/
AP
Wisconsin Democratic Gov. Tony Evers speaks at a campaign stop in October 2022, in Milwaukee. A man illegally brought a handgun into the Wisconsin Capitol on Wednesday demanding to see the governor then returned later with an assault rifle after posting bail.

MADISON, Wis. — A man illegally brought a loaded handgun into the Wisconsin Capitol, demanding to see Gov. Tony Evers, and returned at night with an assault rifle after posting bail, police said Thursday.

The man, who was shirtless and had a holstered handgun, approached the governor's office on the first floor of the Capitol around 2 p.m. Wednesday, state Department of Administration spokesperson Tatyana Warrick said. The 43-year-old man said "he would not leave until he saw Governor Evers" so he could talk about "domestic abuse towards men," Capitol police said in a bulletin sent to lawmakers and their staffs.

Evers was not in the building at the time, Warrick said.

A Capitol police officer sits at a desk outside of a suite of rooms that includes the governor's office, conference room and offices for the attorney general.

The man was taken into custody for openly carrying a firearm in the Capitol, which is against the law, Warrick said. Weapons can be brought into the Capitol if they are concealed and the person has a valid permit. The man arrested did not have a concealed carry permit, Warrick said.

The man posted cellphone video of his arrest on his Facebook page, which one of his Facebook friends downloaded and provided to The Associated Press. In the footage, the man tells police as they speak to him outside of the governor's office that he is armed "to defend myself" from people who he says police won't protect him from.

"I am not a threat," the man tells police. His dog is with him.

When told by officers that it's illegal for him to openly carry a firearm in the Capitol, the man says, "I will admit that I broke that law."

Warrick said she was not aware of the video and could not comment on it.

The man was booked into the Dane County Jail but later posted bail.

He returned to the outside of the Capitol shortly before 9 p.m., three hours after the building closed, with a loaded assault-style rifle and a collapsible police baton in his backpack, Warrick said. He again demanded to see the governor and was taken into custody.

The man said "he did not own a vehicle and it is likely he has access to a large amount of weapons and is comfortable using them," police said in the bulletin sent to Capitol workers.

Capitol police named the suspect, but court records show that no charges had been filed as of late Thursday afternoon. The AP normally does not name suspects until they are charged and efforts are made to get comments from them, their lawyer or other representative.

Madison police reported Thursday that the man was taken into protective custody and taken to the hospital. He could not be reached by the AP, and a spokesperson for the police department did not return an email seeking additional details.

A spokesman for the state public defender's office could not disclose on Thursday whether a public defender had been assigned to the alleged gunman, and an attorney who represented him in a previous case did not immediately return voicemails asking whether they were representing him. Members of the man's family and prior employers also did not immediately respond to voicemails.

In a podcast posted Tuesday, a man who identified himself with the same name and birthdate as the alleged gunman said he was in Madison and, in speech filled with profanity, said he would burn down the system "with love" because it is corrupt. The man complained about how he had been treated by the courts and spoke about illegally selling weapons, working in gun stores with explosives and machine guns, attempting suicide and dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. He also said he wanted to keep living.

"Capitol Police took control of the situation and so it's over," Evers told reporters Thursday.

He declined to comment on what security changes may be enacted for him or the Capitol building.

"I never, ever talk about what my security detail does or what they're planning on doing," Evers said. "But anytime something like this happens, obviously they reevaluate."

The incident is just the latest in a series of violent threats against public officials.

Evers, a Democrat, was on a hit list of a gunman suspected of fatally shooting a retired county judge at his Wisconsin home in 2022. Others on that list included Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Whitmer was the target of a kidnapping plot in 2020.

Warrick said no immediate changes to security in the Capitol or for the governor were planned. The public has free access to the Capitol daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. There are no metal detectors.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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The Associated Press