Maine’s attorney general has filed a civil rights complaint against a Jonesboro man who allegedly threatened an interracial couple as they were on a walk with their children and two dogs.
Dale O’Brien, 52, of Jonesboro, allegedly fired a gun while the family was walking near O’Brien’s house. The complaint says O’Brien quickly put the gun away when one of the victims started recording him with a phone.
Attorney General Aaron Frey is seeking an injunction banning O’Brien from contacting the family or coming within 150 feet of them. Frey is asking for $5,000 for each civil rights violation.
The incident happened just after noon in April on Corky’s Way, a private road. The couple, who have permission to use the road from the owner, were first approached by O’Brien’s wife and told they could be shot for walking on private property. The couple noted they had a license to use the road.
“When the victims, their children, and their dogs were exiting Corky’s Way, approximately 20 minutes after the victims encountered the defendant’s wife, they heard three gunshots,” the civil complaint says.
“Immediately after the gunshots, the defendant came out from behind his home alongside Corky’s Way and began yelling ‘get out’ at the victims and their family. The defendant then pointed a handgun at the victims and their family for more than 10 seconds and continued to threaten them.”
The complaint alleges that about a month before the encounter on Corky’s Way, O’Brien was at a local hardware store. The Defendant told the store clerk that he was buying spray paint to put up a “no trespassing” sign because “he had ‘a [racial epithet] problem.'”
“The Defendant stated that he would likely be able to get away with shooting the individual, referencing a recent event in the news where someone shot another individual and was not punished,” Frey’s complaint said.
O’Brien also allegedly bragged about the type of firearm he owned.
Alarmed, the store clerk later alerted the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.
The complaint also alleged that O’Brien made racially demeaning comments to neighbors about the interracial couple.
O’Brien faces a criminal charge from the encounter.
District Attorney Robert Granger said that on July 19, a Washington County grand jury indicted O’Brien on one count of Criminal Threatening with a Dangerous Weapon, Class C. That charge carries a maximum possible sentence of up to 5 years imprisonment, a $5,000 fine, or both.
Granger said his office fielded a complaint about the encounter in April and promptly investigated. He said his office also alerted the attorney general’s office in April.
On Thursday afternoon, attorney Jeffrey Davidson, who said he is representing O’Brien in the criminal matter, said the accusations are “false.” He said O’Brien plans to plead not guilty in court on Sept. 6.
Davidson said the couple and O’Brien had previously been involved in lawsuits. He also said that O’Brien had taken the family in when they first moved to Maine.
“We don’t think that the attorney general has laid out a complete picture in the civil rights case,” Davidson said in an interview. “I think that there is some history here that the attorney general left out.”
The Portland Press Herald reported Frey’s office has sought similar injunctions in four more cases this year.
According to the Press Herald, Frey’s office accused a Florida woman of yelling a racially charged expletive and threatening to hit another woman with her vehicle in Kennebunkport. This month, the office filed an injunction against a man in Portland for using racial slurs against a library employee and a woman who worked in his apartment building.
“There is absolutely no place in Maine for this type of behavior,” Frey said in a statement on the Jonesboro case. “A young couple walking with their children down a road they had an express right to be on should be free from the ignorant, dangerous behavior we allege the defendant subjected them to. No one should be targeted by threats of violence based on their race and my office will actively confront racist threats in our communities.”
This story has been updated to include a comment from O’Brien’s attorney.