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Reports: Prosecutors tampered with St. Louis couple’s gun to charge them

Mark and Patricia McCloskey confront protesters as they march to Mayor Lyda Krewson's house on Sunday, June 28, 2020, in the Central West End in St. Louis. (Laurie Skrivan/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)
July 23, 2020

The handgun Patricia McCloskey used to defend her home during a June 28 confrontation with protesters was inoperable at the time the St. Louis crime lab received it, but the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s office ordered it reassembled before announcing charges against the couple for felony unlawful use of a weapon and fourth-degree assault offenses

KSDK 5 News first reported documents showing one of the firearms confiscated from the McCloskeys “could not be test fired as submitted.” The document goes on to state that “at the request of [Assistant Circuit Attorney] Chris Hinckley, the firearm was field stripped and found to have been assembled incorrectly.” The crime lab determined the handgun’s firing pin spring was placed in front of the firing pin, which itself was backwards, rendering the gun incapable of firing.

Missouri law requires prosecutors prove a firearm is “readily” capable of lethal use when it is used in crimes such as those for which the couple was charged. Hinckley then ordered the crime lab to reassemble the gun properly, according to KSDK 5.

“The firearms was reassembled properly, test fired and functioned as designed,” the document stated. “No additional defects were observed.”

KSDK 5 further reported crime lab workers photographed the disassembly and reassembly process.

Another local news station, KMOV 4 also reported an anonymous source provided them with a copy of the lab report showing the record of alterations to the firearm.

Despite the handgun being inoperable, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner wrote in her charging documents that the weapons the McCloskeys used during a confrontation with protesters surrounding their private property were “readily capable of lethal use.” There is also no reference to the operating condition of the handgun in a probable cause statement police provided for the case. The only reference to the operating condition comes from the charging documents themselves.

The McCloskeys said they had intentionally rendered the handgun inert because they had previously used it as a prop during a lawsuit they once filed against a gun manufacturer. In order to bring it into a courtroom, they had to first render it inoperable.

“It’s disheartening to learn that a law enforcement agency altered evidence in order to prosecute an innocent member of the community,” said Joel Schwartz, the attorney for the McCloskeys.

Asked about the reported alterations to the firearm, a spokeswoman for Gardner told the publication “We can’t comment on a pending case.”

Missouri Governor Mike Parson had already indicated he would pardon the McCloskeys prior to Gardner filing charges. Parson said the McCloskeys “had every right to protect themselves.”

Since Gardner filed the charges, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt also announced his intent to intervene in the prosecution and dismiss the case.

“There is a common-law interest if the attorney general feels that the broader interest of Missourians are affected, like the chilling effect that this might have with people exercising their Second Amendment rights,” Schmitt said.