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Man accused of threatening to shoot Wisconsin lawmakers over gun laws

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Posted at 1:39 PM, Jun 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-02 14:39:19-04

FOND DU LAC, Wis. — A 72-year-old man was charged with terrorist threats after he allegedly threatened to shoot legislators in Madison if it became legal for teachers to be armed, saying he'd be willing to "go down in a blaze of glory."

According to a criminal complaint, James Stearns of Taycheedah, Wisconsin, sent an email to Jeff Wagner of WTMJ Radio on May 25.

In that email, he said should it become legal for Wisconsin teachers to be armed while at school, he will go to Madison, buy the most powerful weapon he can, and shoot anyone who voted to allow armed teachers, the complaint says.

"Arming the teachers and administrators would be the worst possible thing our country/state would ever see, and I am more than willing to go down in a blaze of glory," Stearns said in the email, according to the complaint.

The complaint goes on to say that Stearns said he'd shoot as many people as he could until someone shot him. He allegedly ended the email by asking Wagner not the view the email as a threat, but as a promise.

When the Fond Du Lac Sheriff's Office heard about this threat, they sent two deputies to Stearns' house. At that time, the complaint says Stearns asked, "did you have a problem with that email?"

A deputy with the sheriff's office said Stearns tried to defend himself and believed he had done nothing wrong.

According to the complaint, Stearns admitted to sending the email to the deputies and again tried to defend himself by saying he doesn't even own a gun.

When asked why he sent the email, the complaint says Stearns was upset. Stearns said he does not believe school administrators and staff should be able to be armed and said there would be many deaths if that became legal in Wisconsin.

The deputy informed Stearns that his email qualified as a terroristic threat. The deputy then asked Stearns if he believed there was anything wrong with what he did. According to the criminal complaint, Stearns hesitated, shrugged his shoulders, and said yes, but he did not understand the seriousness of his threat and the way it would be taken.

While deputies were there, they learned of a second email that was sent to a Wisconsin legislator. That legislator was not identified in the complaint.

Stearns showed the deputies that email, which the complaint says read in part, "Do you not value the lives of your family, yourself, and your fellow legislators. If you pass legislation to arm teachers administrators and other staff people in the Wisconsin public schools, you'll be a dead man in 60 days of passing that legislation. Does this make sense to you. People will hunt you down and your family like animals."

After this discovery, the deputies asked Stearns what he thinks should happen to people who send similar emails to schools, legislature, or the Capitol. According to the complaint, Stearns said those people need to be arrested and punished for their actions.

Deputies then placed Stearns under arrest and transported him to the Fond Du Lac County Jail.

If convicted on the terrorist threat charge, Stearns could face up to 3.5 years in prison.

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