OUTSIDE CHICAGO -- There's rough politics, and then there's staring down the barrel of a gun while you're out campaigning in the middle of the day.
And that's what Republican 86th District state house candidate Ryan Alm said happened to him while he was walking the streets of Joliet's west side and knocking on doors Tuesday afternoon.
"It couldn't be stranger," Alm said. "I couldn't imagine this would ever happen."
Alm said he was speaking with an older woman outside her home near the corner of Madison Street and Black Road about 1 p.m. when a young man rode by on a bicycle and asked, "Is there a problem here."
Alm assured the cyclist there was no problem, that he was merely having a "nice conversation" with a potential voter.
The young man pedaled off but returned soon after on foot to order the candidate to "get the f--- out of this neighborhood," Alm said.
He then lifted his shirt and showed off what appeared to be a semi-automatic pistol stuck in the waistband of his shorts, said Alm, who asked the gunman if he was threatening him.
"You better believe I'm threatening you," the gunman replied, said Alm, who told how the young man threatened that he would "shoot you're f---ing head off."
The young man brandished and racked the pistol, Alm said, and pointed it straight at him.
"I was actually very calm," said Alm, who formerly worked as a paralegal in the felony division of the Will County State's Attorney's Office. "I'm not saying I was brave or strong. I was just calm in that moment."
Alm stepped away and called 911, he said, even though the gunman claimed to "know all the cops in the neighborhood."
Four police officers showed up almost immediately, Alm said, but the gunman had run into his house across the street from the elderly woman's residence.
The gunman's mother let the police into the house, Alm said, and told them how her son had tossed away a BB gun as he ran inside.
Alm said the person who allegedly menaced him looked very young, and he was concerned that a teenager was starting his life off on a bad course. But the police told him the BB gunman was actually 31 years old and that this wasn't the first time he'd been in trouble.
In addition to the BB gun, police said, the man, John Cirricione of 2203 Arden Place, was allegedly carrying brass knuckles. Cirricione was taken into custody on charges of unlawful use of a weapon and aggravated assault in connection with the incident.
Cirricione was later released on his own recognizance.
Alm said Cirricione was "completely agitated" while he was threatening him.
"It was bizarre," he said.
"I don't know if it was politically motivated," Alm added, noting that several of Cirricione's neighbors had planted political signs in support of his Democratic opponent, Larry Walsh Jr.
Alm said the incident has not put him off campaigning or meeting the public, and that it has instead energized him.
"I've knocked on hundreds of doors, thousands of doors," he said, "and no one's ever pulled a gun on me."