Charges Filed Against St. Louis Homeowners Filmed Aiming Guns at Protesters
Mark and Patricia McCloskey were each charged with unlawful use of a weapon by exhibiting
A St. Louis couple who were seen in a viral video pointing guns at protesters outside their home were charged Monday.
According to Joel Schwartz, Mark and Patricia McCloskey’s attorney, the couple were each charged with unlawful use of a weapon by exhibiting.
Schwartz said the couple will receive a summons to appear in court.
“The charges filed today against my clients, Mark and Patricia McCloskey, are disheartening as I unequivocally believe no crime was committed,” Schwartz said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE. “I, along with my clients, 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.”
“I think this is being used as political football,” Schwartz tells PEOPLE.
Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner told the Associated Press charges were filed because "it is illegal to wave weapons in a threatening manner — that is unlawful in the city of St. Louis."
According to the AP, Gardner is recommending that, if the couple is found guilty, they should enter a diversion program such as community service and not be jailed.
Video from the incident showed the two personal injury lawyers, who are white, brandishing guns in front of a large crowd of protesters outside their home. Mark is holding a large assault weapon, while Patricia is holding a pistol.
The protesters were headed to the nearby home of St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, and were calling on the mayor to resign. Krewson caused an uproar on June 26 when, on a Facebook Live broadcast, she read aloud the names and addresses of constituents who called for defunding the police and redirecting the money to social services. Krewson later apologized on Twitter and removed the Facebook video.
Police have said the McCloskeys’ street is private, and that protesters broke down a gate to gain access.
A police statement obtained by NBC News and other outlets says, “Once through the gate, the victims advised the group that they were on a private street and trespassing and told them to leave.”
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The statement adds, “The group began yelling obscenities and threats of harm to both victims. When the victims observed multiple subjects who were armed, they then armed themselves and contacted police.”
Mark McCloskey told KMOV the protesters allegedly threatened the couple, their house and their dog. He alleged that one man “pulled out two pistol magazines, clicked them together and said 'you’re next.’ That was the first death threat we got that night.”
However, the police assertion that the McCloskeys picked up their guns after being threatened was apparently contradicted by Mark McCloskey himself, who told KMOV, “The threats happened probably after we got the guns.”
Missouri State Representative Rasheen Aldridge, who organized the protest, said he did not hear any threats from protesters.
Aldridge acknowledged to KMOV that protesters were aware the street was private, saying, “Just like in many disobedient protests, even in the '60s, you break laws, make people feel uncomfortable. We’re not doing anything where we’re hurting anyone or putting anyone in danger.”
In a recent interview with Mark McCloskey, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo asked how it felt that the couple had become “the face of political resistance to the Black Lives Matter movement."
McCloskey replied, “I’m not the face of anything opposing the Black Lives Matter movement.”
He added, “I was a person scared for my life who was protecting my wife, my home, my hearth, my livelihood.”
In 2018, St. Louis magazine wrote a feature story about how the McCloskeys renovated their Renaissance palazzo mansion. The Post-Dispatch, citing city records, reports the home is appraised at $1.15 million.
Congressman Lacy Clay, who represents St. Louis, said in a statement posted to Twitter: “The rights of non-violent protestors are guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and should never be subject to the threat of deadly force, whether by individuals or by the police.”
Clay added, “The incident which occurred last night on Portland Place was shameful, irresponsible, and could have easily ended in another tragedy.”