May 22, 2011

Police: Legislator points gun at man

No one was injured and he was arrested

WATERVILLE -- A state representative from Garland was arrested Saturday morning for pointing a handgun at a man at point-blank range in a Dunkin' Donuts parking lot.

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Frederick L. Wintle

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Frederick Wintle was born on the first day of hunting season in 1952 and graduated from Dexter Regional High School, according to his personal website. He is a freelance writer and holds a bachelor's degree in business.

He was a member of the U.S. Air Force, retiring after 20 years with the rank of captain, according to the Maine House Republicans' website. He served during the Vietnam War and with Operation Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf War.

He has a background of community involvement, with time spent as a Garland selectman and Dexter-based School Administrative District 49 board member, according to past news reports. He was a publicly funded candidate when he ran for the House of Representatives in 2010, according to the Maine Ethics Commission.

The legistlator, Republican Frederick L. Wintle, 58, faces a felony charge of criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon and a misdemeanor charge of carrying a concealed weapon for pulling a gun on Morning Sentinel photographer Michael Seamans, of Sidney, in a public area near a busy road.

Over the previous few days, people at the Legislature commented on Wintle's increasingly erratic behavior, and he was kicked out of the hotel at which he was staying in Augusta.

Saturday morning, Wintle started talking to Seamans about the infant that died this week at Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter on Ticonic Street and said he was looking for the mother's drug dealer, according to both Seamans and police.

News reports made no mention of drugs involved in the infant's death and did not reveal the family.

He then pulled a .22-caliber handgun out of his pants waistband and pointed it at Seamans in the Dunkin' Donuts parking lot on Kennedy Memorial Drive.

Seamans was "an innocent bystander," said Sgt. Alan Main of the Waterville Police Department. "He certainly did nothing wrong and certainly did his best to try to diffuse the potential harm to himself."

Wintle represents Athens, Harmony and Ripley, in Somerset County, and Charleston, Dexter and Garland, in Penobscot County. He is on the Legislature's Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee.

Police described the incident Saturday as random. "We're fairly confused ourselves as to why Wintle chose to confront the victim," Waterville Deputy Chief Charles Rumsey said.

"I did not engage him or instigate him in any way," Seamans said.

"All I knew was there was a loaded gun pointed at me from a couple feet away, pointed right at my midsection."

Seamans stopped at Dunkin' Donuts around 8:30 a.m. to buy coffee on his way to work. As he walked to the entrance, he said, Wintle was leaning against a silver truck, staring at him. Seamans wasn't carrying his camera and had never seen Wintle before.

As Seamans stirred his coffee, he said, Wintle continued to watch him through the window from outside.

When Seamans left, Wintle yelled something inaudible, and Seamans asked him to repeat himself. Wintle then walked toward Seamans and asked if he knew about the boy killed in Waterville.

Seamans asked him if he was referring to the boy found dead in South Berwick. The body of Camden Hughes, 6, was found last Saturday, and his mother, Julianne McCrery, of Texas, has been charged with his slaying.

"(Wintle) said, 'Well, I'm looking for the mother's drug dealer in Waterville,'" Seamans said. A 12-week-old infant died Wednesday at the city's homeless shelter.

Rumsey said he doesn't know why Wintle was talking about the infant's death.

"We have no knowledge that either he or the victim are related to that incident in any way whatsoever," Rumsey said, adding that the cause of the infant's death has not yet been determined.

Seamans said he didn't know to what Wintle was referring.

"I said, 'No, I don't know anything.' I didn't even know what he was talking about," Seamans said. "He was mumbling things I couldn't quite understand."

Wintle then lifted his shirt to show the gun tucked in his waistband. Seamans said Wintle then pulled it out and pointed it at him.

Seamans said he started backing away to put other vehicles between him and the potential shooter. He also called 911 and reported Wintle's license plate number.

Wintle had put the gun away by the time his wife emerged with her coffee. Seamans said it appeared as if Wintle's wife knew nothing about what had happened.

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