A Jonesboro man has been accused of threatening an interracial couple and their children earlier this year.
The Maine attorney general’s office is seeking a civil rights injunction against 52-year-old Dale O’Brien, it announced Wednesday.
On April 11, 2023, the couple — a Black man and white woman — were walking with their two young children and dog along a private road when O’Brien’s wife approached them, saying they could be shot for being on private property, according to the attorney general’s office.
The couple told O’Brien’s wife they had previously walked on the road and received explicit permission from its owner to be there, so they weren’t trespassing.
When the couple exited the road about 20 minutes later, they heard three gunshots from O’Brien’s property, which abuts the private road. He emerged from behind his house and yelled at them to “get out” before allegedly pointing a handgun at them.
O’Brien lowered the gun only after the couple, who are neighbors to O’Brien, took out a cellphone to record the interaction, according to the attorney general’s office.
It wasn’t the first time O’Brien had allegedly threatened the couple.
A month earlier, O’Brien allegedly went into a local hardware store, where he asked for “No Trespassing” signs to deal with “a [racial epithet] problem.” O’Brien proceeded to tell the clerk that he believed the “[racial epithet]” couldn’t read, and so he was going to shoot him if the “problem” continued, according to the attorney general’s office.
He bragged he could shoot the “[racial epithet]” and get away with it, adding that he “should be able to get away with shooting one [racial epithet] as long as he didn’t have to bring him in to tag him,” the attorney general’s office said.
O’Brien reportedly boasted about the gun he owned.
The clerk was alarmed by O’Brien’s statements and reported him to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.
If obtained, the civil rights injunction would bar O’Brien from having any contact with the Black man.
The attorney general’s office didn’t identify the couple.
“There is absolutely no place in Maine for this type of behavior. 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,” Attorney General Frey said in a statement.
Under the Maine Civil Rights Act, the attorney general can take action against any person who uses or threatens physical force, violence or property damage against another person based upon their race, color, religion, sex, ancestry, national origin, physical or mental disability, sexual orientation or gender identity.
A knowing violation of an order issued under the Maine Civil Rights Act is a Class D crime punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a $2,000 fine.
That comes weeks after the attorney general obtained a civil rights injunction against a Portland man accused of harassing and threatening two Black women and announced it was pursuing a similar action against a Florida woman accused of using racial slurs and threatening an Asian-American woman in Kennebunkport in June.