A southern Maine legislator said she had two unnerving encounters in 2019 with Kyle Fitzsimons, the first Mainer charged in connection with the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot. They show why an Augusta office building where legislative committees meet should have metal detectors and security screening, as the neighboring State House does, she said.
Rep. Michele Meyer, an Eliot Democrat, said Fitzsimons followed her into a Kittery parking lot in the spring of 2019, parked his truck behind her vehicle so she could not exit and asked her how she planned to vote on a gun safety bill.
About two weeks later, Fitzsimons called out to Meyer from across the fourth-floor rotunda at the State House in Augusta.
She outlined those encounters in a Feb. 6 email to Maine Public Safety Commissioner Michael Sauschuck, who is responsible for policing the State House complex in Augusta. She shared a copy of the email with the Bangor Daily News.
Meyer, who is the House chairperson of the Health and Human Services Committee, said she “has been deeply concerned” about the lack of security at the Cross Building given the dangers lawmakers now face because of their work.
“The absence of any security left me, my colleagues, staff and the thousands of Mainers who visit and participate in state government, vulnerable and unsafe,” she said. “Multiple entry points and no metal detectors or screening are an invitation for violence should someone have such an intent.”
While Meyer recognized Fitzsimons, she said in the email that she did not know his name until she saw news reports of his arrest last week.
“It frightens me that I had come face to face with him in the manner I did 2 years ago,” she wrote.
During the encounter in the Kittery parking lot, Meyer said, it was clear Fitzsimons had researched bills she had cosponsored and votes she had taken in the Maine House, where she’s serving her second term.
“He spoke of the Second Amendment, made disparaging remarks about the governor and speculated America was headed to civil war over gun rights,” Meyer wrote. “He was mildly agitated and the situation was unsettling and intimidating.”
The lawmaker said she listened to Fitzsimons, who was not one of her constituents, but did not respond, except to ask him to move his truck so she could be on her way, which he did.
“I did not report this to the local police but in retrospect perhaps should have,” Meyer wrote.
About two weeks later, Meyer saw Fitzsimons again. He called out to her from across the fourth-floor rotunda at the State House, where he was preparing to testify against the so-called “red flag” bill, she said. She did not respond to him and continued on to her committee room.
The “red flag” bill would have allowed family members, police and others to petition judges to take dangerous weapons away from people found to be a danger to themselves and others. That bill was sponsored by then-Sen. Rebecca Millett, D-Cape Elizabeth.
Fitzsimons attended a hearing on that bill before the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee on April 22, 2019, according to committee records.
Fitzsimons filled out a one-page sheet of paper opposing the legislation. He wrote: “Rebecca Millet’s (sic) travesty is unconstitutional and make a bully out of ME.”
Millett’s bill failed but a more limited compromise supported by Gov. Janet Mills and some guns rights groups passed. It allows police and district attorneys to petition courts to take people’s guns if a mental health professional determines they are dangerous.
Fitzsimons did not testify at a hearing on the compromise legislation.
It was “jarring” to see Fitzsimons’ photo in media reports following his arrest, Meyer said. The photo “triggered the recall” of a number of other legislators, who remembered an angry Fitzsimons testifying “in a racist rant” in front of the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee in 2018 on a bill to fund a $390,000 job training and welcome center for immigrants in Lewiston.
During that hearing, Fitzsimons told lawmakers he had moved to Maine to escape “multi-cultural hell holes” and that lawmakers were doing nothing as immigrants moved to the region and were “killing off yankee New England culture,” according to a press report from the time.
Meyer said that connecting the dots from Fitzsimons’ appearances in Augusta to a Kittery parking lot to “the violent insurrection in Washington DC on Jan. 6” wasn’t difficult.
“Hate and intolerance leave a trail,” she said. “Alarmingly, this trail has led of late to seats of government nationwide, with legislators in the sites of those radicalized and unhinged. Could it lead to ours? Of course it can.”
Because committee meetings are happening virtually this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, Meyer said, now would be a good time to plan for more security at the Cross Building.
Sauschuck said Thursday that he could not discuss specifics around security plans but took Meyer’s concerns seriously.
He told Meyer in a reply email that she had raised “some valid points that mirror our concerns and we’re looking at options, short and long term, to better secure the state house complex for all those that visit and work in the area on a daily basis. I would expect these conversations to continue with the legislative council’s facilities committee.”
A federal judge on Thursday granted Fitzsimons’ request that his bail and probable cause hearing be held in Washington, D.C.