A St. Louis couple who made national headlines for defending their property with firearms have been charged with a felony by Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner.
Patricia and Mark McCloskey are charged with unlawful use of a weapon, a class E felony, according to the complaint.
“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,” Gardner said in a statement.
“We must protect the right to peacefully protest, & any attempt to chill it through intimidation will not be tolerated.”
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
The charges are unlikely to stick. Both Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Gov. Mike Parson have publicly blasted Gardner’s prosecution, and Gov. Parson has vowed to pardon the couple if they are convicted.
Schmitt published an amicus brief supporting the dismissal of the case. He cited the broad protections in Missouri for those using firearms for lawful self-defense
“The right to keep and bear arms is given the highest level of protection in our constitution and our laws, including the Castle Doctrine. This provides broad rights to Missourians who are protecting their property and lives from those who wish to do them harm,” Schmitt said. “As Missouri’s Chief law enforcement officer, I won’t stand by while Missouri law is being ignored – that’s why I entered this case to seek its dismissal, to protect the rights of Missourians to defend their property under Missouri’s Castle Doctrine.”
Missouri’s castle doctrine law explicitly protects “displaying firearms in an angry or threatening manner” as long as the display was used in the defense of self or home, Schmitt argued.
“Missouri’s Legislature has provided additional protection for these constitutional rights by enacting the ‘castle doctrine’ of self-defense, which permits Missourians to use force— including the display of firearms in self-defense—to protect themselves, their families, their homes, and their property from threatening or violent intruders,” Schmitt said in the brief.
Gov. Parson accused Gardner of being politically motivated and criticized her for prosecuting the McCloskeys while claiming not to have enough resources to prosecute homicide cases.
We must prioritize laws that keep our citizens safe over political motivations. Kim Gardner owes every single family who has had a loved one murdered an explanation on why she has acted on the McCloskey case instead of theirs.— Mike Parson (@mikeparson) July 20, 2020
Appearing on the Sean Hannity Show, Gov. Parson vowed to pardon the couple.
“Without a doubt, Sean,” he said when asked about a pardon. “I will do everything within the Constitution of the State of Missouri to protect law-abiding citizens and those people are exactly that. They are law-abiding citizens, and they’re being attacked frankly by a political process that’s really unfortunate.”
The McCloskeys claim they feared for their lives when a large group of people broke into their gated community earlier this month on their way to protest at the home of the St. Louis mayor. They say several individuals threatened them with physical violence.
“My clients had to deal with comments that were from two individuals that were perpetrating these acts of violence and, not charging, but coming toward them and doing so in a fashion that was threatening, menacing, and in a fashion inconsistent with the Black Lives Matter message,” the McCloskey’s lawyer, Al Watkins, told Fox News at the time.