St Louis couple charged for pulling guns on Black Lives Matter protesters

Prosecutor says 'this type of conduct is unacceptable' and recommends McCloskeys be sentenced to a diversion program

Alex Woodward
New York
Monday 20 July 2020 18:04 BST
St Louis couple 'had every right' to defend property, says Missouri governor

A gun-toting St Louis couple who pointed firearms at protesters during a Black Lives Matter demonstration face felony charges for the unlawful use of a weapon.

Mark and Patricia McCloskey could face up to four years in prison or fines of up to $5,000 if convicted, though Missouri Governor Mike Parson has said he was considering pardoning the couple.

Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner announced that the McCloskeys were charged following an investigation with the St Louis Metropolitan Police Department in the wake of a demonstration that passed outside the lawyer couple's $1.15 million home on 28 June.

"It is illegal to wave weapons in a threatening manner at those participating in nonviolent protest, and while we are fortunate this situation did not escalate into deadly force, this type of conduct is unacceptable in St Louis," she said on Monday.

Ms Gardner is recommending that the couple participate in a diversion program.

"I believe this would serve as a fair resolution to this matter," she said. "We must protect the right to peacefully protest, and any attempt to chill it through intimidation will not be tolerated ... The people of St Louis have elected me to pursue equal justice under the law fairly and impartially, and that is what I intend to do."

The couple's attorney Joel Schwartz told the Associated Press that the prosecutor's decision to charge is "disheartening as I unequivocally believe no crime was committed."

A crowd marched to the home of St Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson last month amid widespread protests across the US condemning police violence and demanding significant reforms following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Mayor Krewson had outraged residents after reading the names and addresses of activists during a Facebook Live stream.

As the protest made its way towards the mayor's home on Portland Place, the McCloskeys – both of whom are white and live on the same street – armed themselves before stepping out of their home and threatening demonstrators.

Mark McCloskey carried a long-barrelled rifle, and Patricia McCloskey carried a small handgun.The state's governor has defended the couple – whose litigious, confrontational history in the city was outlined in an exhaustive St Louis Post-Dispatch investigation – and claimed that they had "every right to defend" the property under the state's "castle doctrine" that permits lethal force against people who unlawfully enter a person's home.

Video from the demonstration shows protesters walking through a nearby gate, which was intact, making their way down a sidewalk on the private street when the McCloskeys exit their home and begin waving guns. An attorney for the couple later claimed that protesters broke through the gate.

Other Republicans have joined their defence, including Senator Josh Hawley, who has called on US Attorney General William Barr to investigate Ms Gardner – the city's first chief black prosecutor – for allegedly violating the couple's civil rights.

Ms Gardner also has been the subject of a probe investigating her handling of the case of former Republican Governor Eric Greitens, who resigned following reports of his extramarital affair. Ms Gardner countered with a civil suit against the city and police union, alleging a "racially motivated conspiracy" against her.

Donald Trump's campaign invited the couple to a virtual campaign event, during which Mark McCloskey said: "I thought that within seconds we'd be overrun, they'd be in the house, they'd be setting fires, they'd be killing us."

The couple maintains that they called police before waving guns at protesters, though the city's police department has said they never received any calls from the home at that time.

Mr Trump – who has championed himself as a steadfast defender of the Second Amendment and has supported brutality against protesters calling for racial justice – has also shared viral footage of the couple on his Twitter page.

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