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Man returns to Wisconsin Capitol with assault rifle and asks to see governor, hours after being arrested there with a gun, state officials say

By Amy Simonson, Brad Parks, Dakin Andone and Joe Sutton, CNN

(CNN) — A man who was arrested Wednesday after bringing a handgun to the Wisconsin Capitol and saying he wanted to see Gov. Tony Evers returned with an assault rifle that night after posting bail and again asked to see Evers, according to state officials.

The man was shirtless and had a holstered handgun and a leashed dog when he approached the security desk outside the governor’s office in Madison around 2 p.m. Wednesday, Wisconsin Department of Administration spokesperson Tatyana Warrick said in a statement to CNN.

He said he would not leave until he saw the governor, a Democrat, officials said. The man has been identified as Joshua Pleasnick, according to a Wisconsin State Capitol Police visitor alert obtained by CNN from a state senator’s office. CNN has attempted to contact him.

“Pleasnick was told he could not open carry in the Capitol,” the visitor alert said. “Pleasnick stated he would not comply with that order.”

The man was taken to jail on suspicion of openly carrying a firearm in the Capitol, which is illegal, the administration department said.

“While being interviewed Pleasnick said he would continue coming to the Capitol until he spoke to the governor about domestic abuse towards men,” the visitor alert reads.

The gun was seized as evidence, and the dog was turned over to the City of Madison Animal Control, according to the administration department.

Pleasnick later bailed himself out of jail, the visitor alert said. The man returned to the outside of the Capitol shortly before 9 p.m. – this time with an AK-47-style rifle, the administration department said. Again, he asked to see the governor.

Capitol police and Madison police “began a dialogue” with him, the administration department said.

“A consent search of his backpack was conducted and revealed a collapsible police-style baton, which is illegal as the man did not have a valid concealed carry permit,” the administration department said.

Officers took him into custody shortly before midnight for psychiatric evaluation based on a “concerning statement” and the rifle was seized by Capitol police, according to the department statement. 

Britt Cudaback, a spokesperson for the governor’s office, declined to comment, saying it was the office’s policy to not comment on matters of the governor’s security.

Evers, however, told reporters Thursday he was doing OK, crediting the various police departments for their work.

“Yeah, it’s always something that … you don’t want to see happen,” he said. “But that’s why we have good people in the police departments, in the Capitol police and the state patrol. They’re doing their great work.”

Asked if the Capitol’s security policies would be enhanced, the governor said, “I’m sure they’re looking at that as we speak,” though he also declined to discuss security matters in detail.

Officials have not yet detailed the nature of the man’s comments Wednesday and whether they were violent. But Evers, like a number of public officials in recent years, has previously been the subject of violent threats.

In June, a Wisconsin man was sentenced to one year and one day in federal prison after pleading guilty to transmitting in interstate commerce a threatening communication, according to a news release from the US Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Wisconsin. The man was specifically accused of writing threatening emails and Facebook posts about the governor, the complaint against him said.

Separately, a man who authorities said fatally shot a Wisconsin judge last year had also considered Evers and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell as targets, according to a source familiar with the investigation. The name of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer – who was herself the subject of a kidnapping plot – was also on the list of targets, her office said at the time.

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Paul P. Murphy contributed to this report.

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