The St. Louis couple who went viral for displaying their guns to threatening protesters outside their home will now face charges, the city’s top prosecutor announced on Monday.
Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner told The Associated Press Monday afternoon that Mark and Patricia McCloskey are charged with felony unlawful use of a weapon and a misdemeanor charge of fourth-degree assault.
“It is illegal to wave weapons in a threatening manner — that is unlawful in the city of St. Louis,” Gardner said. However, she did not elaborate on which specific laws the McCloskeys broke, or why self-defense laws did not apply to them.
Gardner called the McCloskeys’ actions “unacceptable.”
“Today my office filed charges against Mark and Patricia McCloskey following an incident involving peaceful, unarmed protesters on June 28th. 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,” a statement from Gardner’s office said.
1/ Statement from Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner – Today my office filed charges against Mark and Patricia McCloskey following an incident involving peaceful, unarmed protesters on June 28th. Full statement below: pic.twitter.com/zPucQ3MHs5
— Circuit Attorney (@stlcao) July 20, 2020
During a Friday interview with “The Marc Cox Morning Show,” Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said the McCloskeys “had every right to protect themselves,” and indicated he would issue a pardon if the couple was charged.
“I think that’s exactly what would happen,” Parson said of the potential pardon. “Right now, that’s what I feel.”
“You don’t know until you hear all the facts. But right now, if this is all about going after them for doing a lawful act, then yeah, if that scenario ever happened, I don’t think they’re going to spend any time in jail,” he said.
Parson was a co-author for Missouri’s “castle doctrine” law during his time in the state legislature. The law permits the use of deadly force for individuals defending their homes from threats. However, Gardner refused to discuss why the castle doctrine law did not apply in the McCloskey’s case, the AP said.
The McCloskeys’ attorney, Joel Schwartz, said he was disheartened by the charges, adding, “I unequivocally believe no crime was committed.”
The McCloskeys, who are both attorneys, had retrieved their firearms from their home after they claim protesters threatened their lives. Protesters had torn down a gate leading onto a private street in front of the McCloskeys’ home.
Police recently served a search warrant at the McCloskeys’ residence and confiscated a rifle from the couple, which Mark McCloskey was photographed holding during the incident.
Gardner has previously said, “we will not tolerate the use of force against those exercising their First Amendment rights.”
Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley said on Thursday he had request the U.S. Department of Justice investigate the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office for civil rights violations over the city’s actions toward the McCloskeys.
“Targeting law abiding citizens who exercise constitutionally protected rights for investigation & prosecution is an abuse of power,” Hawley said.
Gardner’s office replied to Hawley’s tweet, saying, “Baseless. Our office will continue to investigate this matter, and will not be bullied by a sitting U.S. Senator or anyone else.”
Baseless. Our office will continue to investigate this matter, and will not be bullied by a sitting U.S. Senator or anyone else. https://t.co/IWhHD8RaxG
— Circuit Attorney (@stlcao) July 16, 2020