Missouri Governor Mike Parson has blasted the top prosecutor in St. Louis after he filed charges against a white couple who brandished weapons as Black Lives Matter protesters marched past their mansion.
Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner decided Monday to prosecute Mark and Patricia McCloskey over the incident on June 28.
But the governor was swift to tweet his displeasure, and State Attorney General Eric Schmitt had already taken legal steps to have the move dismissed.
‘Kim Gardner’s action toward the McCloskeys is outrageous,’ Parson wrote in a tweet Monday evening, after he had previously vowed to pardon the couple if they were charged and prosecuted.
Parson criticized the move to file charges against the McCloskeys, arguing St. Louis already faced a backlog of cases and ‘dozens of homicides’ that haven’t been prosecuted
Missouri Governor Mike Parson called it ‘outrageous’ after the top prosecutor in St. Louis filed charges against Mark and Patricia McCloskey, who displayed weapons as a crowd marched past their mansion in protest of racial injustice on June 28
A tweet posted by Missouri Governor Mike Parson Monday criticized a move to file charges against the McCloskeys as St. Louis faced a backlog of cases and ‘dozens of homicides’ that haven’t been prosecuted
As Parson tweeted his disapproval over Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s decision to prosecute Mark and Patricia McCloskey, State Attorney General Eric Schmitt (right) was already taking legal steps to have the move dismissed
Gardner had announced the charges against the couple in an interview with the Associated Press on Monday.
They also face a misdemeanor charge of fourth-degree assault as Gardner said their actions risked creating a violent situation during an otherwise nonviolent protest.
‘It is illegal to wave weapons in a threatening manner – that is unlawful in the city of St. Louis,’ Gardner said.
The attorney for the McCloskeys, Joel Schwartz, in a statement called the decision to charge ‘disheartening as I unequivocally believe no crime was committed.’
Gardner is recommending a diversion program such as community service rather than jail time if the McCloskeys are convicted. Typically, class E felonies could result in up to four years in prison.
Supporters of the McCloskeys said the couple were legally defending their $1.15 million home. Photos emerged as memes on both sides of the gun debate.
Parson was among several Republican leaders who blasted Gardner’s investigation, including President Donald Trump, and Sen. Josh Hawley, who urged Attorney General William Barr to undertake a civil rights investigation of Gardner.
Gardner declined to answer when asked why Missouri’s ‘Castle Doctrine’ did not apply to the McCloskeys. Parson, when he was in the state Legislature, co-authored the law, which justifies deadly force by those who are defending their homes from intruders.
Around 300 protesters made their way into the closed-off community and marched in front of the property. The couple said they were defending their home
Schmitt, who revealed to Fox News that he had filed a brief Monday to throw out Gardner’s decision, told the news network that ‘the right to keep and bear arms is given the highest level of protection in our constitution and our laws, including the Castle Doctrine.’
The state attorney general explained in a statement to Fox News that the law, ‘provides broad rights to Missourians who are protecting their property and lives from those who wish to do them harm’.
‘Despite this, Circuit Attorney Gardner filed suit against the McCloskeys, who, according to published reports, were defending their property and safety. As Missouri’s Chief law enforcement officer, I won’t stand by while Missouri law is being ignored,’ Schmitt said in the brief, which requests an immediate dismissal.
Gardner said Trump, Parson and others are attacking her to distract from ‘their failed approach to the COVID-19 pandemic’ and other issues.
St. Louis, like many cities across the country, has seen demonstrations in the weeks since George Floyd’s police-related death in Minneapolis on Memorial Day. The McCloskeys’ home ended up getting caught up in one of the demonstrations as a crowd marched passed on June 28.
The prosecutors said the McCloskeys’ actions risked creating a violent situation during an otherwise nonviolent protest
‘It is illegal to wave weapons in a threatening manner – that is unlawful in the city of St. Louis,’ Kim Gardner said
Several hundred people at the time were marching to the home of Democratic Mayor Lyda Krewson, a few blocks from the McCloskeys’ home. Krewson had angered activists by reading on Facebook Live the names and addresses of some who had called for defunding police.
The McCloskeys, who live on a private street called Portland Place, heard a loud commotion and saw a large group of people break an iron gate marked with ‘No Trespassing’ and ‘Private Street’ signs, according to a police report.
A protest leader, the Rev. Darryl Gray, said the gate was open and that protesters didn’t damage it.
Video posted online showed Mark McCloskey wielding a long-barreled gun and Patricia McCloskey waving a small handgun. No shots were fired.
On July 10 the McCloskeys’ home was searched, and Mr McCloskey’s AR-15 assault rifle was seized. Arrangements were also made to turn over the handgun wielded by Mrs McCloskey.
In an interview with Fox News on Saturday, Mr. McCloskey expressed pride in his wife for her gun wielding actions. ‘I was always surprised to see her out there facing off [the] welfare crowd,’ he said.
‘I grabbed my rifle and I was standing up on the porch – and all of a sudden I see her in the front yard with our pistol in her hand. What a woman.’
Trump spoke by phone with Parson last week to criticize Gardner’s investigation. Parson also had said that the McCloskeys ‘had every right to protect their property.’
Mark McCloskey appeared on Fox News on Saturday to discuss the July 10 raid on his home and said about his wife, ‘I was always surprised to see her out there facing off [the] welfare crowd’
The couple’s attorney Schwartz said the McCloskeys ‘support the First Amendment right of every citizen to have their voice and opinion heard. This right, however, must be balanced with the Second Amendment and Missouri law, which entitle each of us to protect our home and family from potential threats.’
Another attorney for the couple, Albert Watkins, has said they grabbed their guns when two or three white protesters threatened the couple, their property and that of their neighbors.
Gardner, St. Louis’ first Black circuit attorney, has been at odds with some in the St. Louis establishment since her election in 2016.
Most notably, her office charged then-Gov. Eric Greitens with felony invasion of privacy in 2018 for allegedly taking a compromising photo of a woman during an extramarital affair. The charge was eventually dropped, but Greitens resigned in June 2018.
A private investigator Gardner hired to investigate the claims against Greitens was later indicted for perjury for allegedly lying during a deposition. His case is pending.
Gardner also has butted heads with police leaders, especially after she developed an ‘exclusion list’ of more than two dozen officers who were barred from serving as primary witnesses in criminal cases over what Gardner called credibility concerns. The move angered Police Chief John Hayden, who also is Black.
In January, Gardner filed a federal lawsuit accusing the city, the police union and others of a coordinated and racist conspiracy aimed at forcing her out of office. The lawsuit also accused ‘entrenched interests’ of intentionally impeding her efforts to change racist practices.
Several Black leaders in St. Louis have expressed support for Gardner, including Democratic U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay, who has said protesters ‘should never be subject to the threat of deadly force, whether by individuals or by the police.’