Man faces misdemeanor for twice bringing guns to Wisconsin state Capitol, asking to see governor

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A man who brought a loaded handgun into the Wisconsin Capitol, demanding to see Gov. Tony Evers, and returned hours later with an assault rifle after posting bail has been charged with a misdemeanor.

Joshua Pleasnick, 43, was charged Monday with carrying a firearm in a public building. The Madison man is scheduled for an initial court appearance on the charge Thursday in Dane County Circuit Court. Online court records do not list an attorney who could speak on Pleasnick’s behalf.

A message asking whether Pleasnick has been assigned a public defender was left Tuesday with the State Public Defender’s Office by The Associated Press. Messages were also left by the AP for two attorneys listed in a previous divorce case involving Pleasnick.

Pleasnick was arrested on the afternoon of Oct. 4 for illegally openly carrying a weapon after he entered the Capitol shirtless with a holstered handgun and a dog on a leash. He approached the governor’s office and asked to speak to Evers, who was not in the building at the time.

After posting bail, Pleasnick returned outside the Capitol that night with an AK-style semi-automatic rifle, the state Department of Administration has said. The building was closed by that time, but Pleasnick again demanded to see the governor and was again taken into custody.

According to a criminal complaint filed Monday, Pleasnick told a police officer he had no intention of using the weapon but wanted to speak to Evers about men who have been abused by women but aren’t getting any help from authorities.

Pleasnick later told officers he didn’t know he wasn’t supposed to have the gun but carried it as protection against his ex-girlfriend, who he thought might try to harm him. He also said he was angry at “uniformed government officials” who had let him down in the court system, and that police officers he’d spoken to in the past didn’t think men could be victims of abuse, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

The incident came after 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.

Wisconsin’s Capitol building is one of the most open in the country. The building has its own police force but is not protected by metal detectors, screening checkpoints or X-rays, and anyone can walk in between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. during the week and go straight to the offices of state lawmakers and others.