ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis prosecutors on Monday filed charges against Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the Central West End couple seen pointing guns at protesters in late June.
Patricia and Mark McCloskey are each facing one count of Unlawful Use of a Weapon - Flourishing, sources told News 4.
Patricia and Mark McCloskey were seen pointing guns at protesters who were marching on Portland Place heading to St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson's home on June 28. The protesters were calling for Krewson to resign. Krewson had read the names and addresses of demonstrators calling for police reform during a Facebook Live video.
"It is illegal to wave weapons in a threatening matter 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," Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner said in a statement. "We must protect the right to peacefully protest, and any attempt to chill it through intimidation will not be tolerated."
The infamous Central West End couple who gained national headlines after pointing guns at protesters in June appeared on President Trump's virtual campaign web series Friday night.
Joel Schwartz, an attorney for the McCloskeys, said the charges are "disheartening, as I unequivocally believe no crime was committed."
"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," Schwartz said, saying he looks forward to reviewing all evidence and defending the couple.
In the pictures, Patricia and Mark McCloskey are seen pointing guns the protesters. Their defense attorney Joel Schwartz has previously maintained they are innocent. He says they were acting within their full rights to protect themselves and their property. The street is private and he says the protesters were trespassing and were threatening to the McCloskeys.
St. Louis Police Chief John Hayden last week said police applied for warrants but did not elaborate on what those warrants allege or who they are against. The guns were turned over to police as evidence.
“The hostility is what I noticed,” Hayden said. “I don't want to see guns out when people are very hostile and angry at each other. Those are recipes for violence, so again we applied on warrant, there's been follow up information and we are waiting on the decision on the warrant application."
That warrant - and speculation of charges - led to nearly a week of political blow-back from Republicans in the state.
Hawley says Gardner targeting family, calls for civil rights investigation
U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley on Thursday urged Attorney General William Barr to launch a federal civil rights investigation of St. Louis' elected prosecutor, accusing her of abuse of power in her investigation of a couple who wielded guns while defending their home during a protest.
“There is no question under Missouri law that the McCloskeys had the right to own and use their firearms to protect themselves from threatened violence, and that any criminal prosecution for these actions is legally unsound,” Hawley wrote. "The only possible motivation for the investigation, then, is a politically motivated attempt to punish this family for exercising their Second Amendment rights.”
Gardner, in a statement, said, “I am deeply disappointed that a U.S. Senator would intervene in a local matter that is under investigation.
St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney Tim Lohmar, who is the president of the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, said Hawley's call for a federal investigation of a Missouri prosecutor is unprecedented, and ultimately, it's up to the voters to decide what kind of job prosecutors are doing.
He also said Gardner is in a tough position with this case.
"These are two amendments that people get extremely passionate about," he said, referring to the First Amendment and the Second Amendment. "But for a prosecutor in the State of Missouri, it comes down to deciding the law. And these are examples where we as prosecutors are sometimes. Faced with the prospect of having to make a very difficult decision that may not be a popular decision, for either group."
McCloskeys invited to President Trump's virtual campaign event
The McCloskeys appeared on President Trump's virtual campaign web series Friday night.
The couple shared their side of what happened during the President's campaign livestream.
"I thought within seconds we were going to be overrun. That... they'd be in the house, they'd be setting fires, they'd be killing us and that would be the end of things," Mark McCloskey said on Trump's campaign program Making the Case.
"The so-called peaceful protest kinda ended when they smashed through the gate into my neighborhood and poured into my front yard," he continued.
Despite his claims, video circulating on social media shows protesters opening and walking through the unbroken gate. It is unclear when it was actually damaged or who destroyed it.
Patricia McCloskey maintained they called police before grabbing the guns despite police stating they received no calls from the couple's street at the time of the incident.
Senator Josh Hawley is calling for a federal civil rights investigation into St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner.
Missouri AG seeks dismissal of charges
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt said in a statement Monday that he filed a brief requesting that the charges be dismissed.
“The right to keep and bear arms is given the highest level of protection in our constitution and our laws, including the Castle Doctrine," Schmitt said in the statement. "This provides broad rights to Missourians who are protecting their property and lives from those who wish to do them harm."
Missouri governor weighs in and says pardon is likely
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson tweeted out Monday that he believes Gardner should be focused on other matters such as violent crime.
Kim Gardner’s action toward the McCloskeys is outrageous. Even worse, the Circuit Attorney’s office has admitted there is a backlog of cases and dozens of homicides that haven’t been prosecuted, yet she has accelerated this case forward.— Governor Mike Parson (@GovParsonMO) July 20, 2020
Last week, Parson told a radio host last week that based on the information he's received, it's likely he would pardon a white St. Louis couple if they are charged for brandishing guns during a racial injustice protest outside their mansion.
In an interview Friday on the Marc Cox Morning Show on 97.1 FM in St. Louis, Parson was asked if he would consider a pardon.
“I think that's exactly what would happen,” Parson said. He later added that based on what he knows about the case, “I don't think they're going to spend any time in jail.”
Parson on Saturday retweeted a link to the interview on his personal Twitter page. The following day, the governor doubled down on his stance in a string of tweets.
"As a former Sheriff, a law enforcement officer for over 22 years, and now Governor, when it comes to supporting law enforcement officers and their families who are under attack, I’ll always stand with President Trump and have their backs," he tweeted.
Parson had previously said President Trump was keeping his eye on the case.