Saint-Louis couple accused of firing guns during demonstration

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The top St. Louis prosecutor on Monday charged a white husband and wife with the felony of illegal weapon use for displaying guns during a protest against racial injustice outside their mansion.

Mark and Patricia McCloskey, both of whom are personal injury lawyers in their 60s. Constituency Attorney Kim Gardner told The Associated Press that the McCloskeys’ actions risked creating a violent situation during an otherwise non-violent protest.

“It is illegal to wave guns in a threatening manner – it is illegal in the town of St. Louis,” Gardner said.

A lawyer for the couple, Joel Schwartz, in a statement called the decision to charge “disheartening because I unequivocally believe that no crime has been committed.”

McCloskeys supporters said they are legally defending their $ 1.15 million home.

Gardner recommends a diversion program like community service rather than jail time if the McCloskeys are convicted. Typically, Class E crimes can result in up to four years in prison.

Several Republican leaders have condemned Gardner’s investigation, including President Donald Trump, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson and Senator Josh Hawley, who urged Attorney General William Barr to initiate an investigation into Gardner’s civil rights. Parson said in a radio interview on Friday that he would likely forgive the couple if they were charged and found guilty.

Gardner said Trump, Parson and others were attacking him to distract from “their failed approach to the COVID-19 pandemic” and other issues.

St. Louis, like many cities across the country, saw protests in the weeks following George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, and the McCloskeys’ home was initially incidental to the June 28 protest. Several hundred people marched towards the home of the Democratic mayor. Lyda Krewson, a few blocks from the McCloskeys house. Krewson had angered activists by reading on Facebook Live the names and addresses of some who had called for police demining.

The McCloskeys live on a private street called Portland Place. A police report said the couple heard a loud commotion and saw a large group of people smash an iron door marked with “No Trespassing” and “Private Street” signs. Protest leader Reverend Darryl Gray said the door was open and protesters had not damaged it.

Mark McCloskey confronted the protesters with a semi-automatic rifle, yelled at them and pointed the gun at them, according to a probable statement from Constable Curtis Burgdorf. According to the statement, Patricia McCloskey then came out with a semi-automatic handgun, shouting at the protesters to “go” and pointing the gun at them. The protesters feared “to be injured because of Patricia McCloskey’s finger on the trigger, coupled with her excited behavior,” the statement said.

No shots were fired.

The photos have emerged as memes on both sides of the gun debate.

Trump spoke by phone with Parson last week to criticize Gardner’s investigation. Parson, when he was in the Legislature, co-wrote the Missouri “Castle Doctrine” Act that justifies lethal force for those who defend their homes from intruders. He said the McCloskeys “have every right to protect their property”.

Gardner declined to discuss why she decided the Castle Doctrine did not apply.

Schwartz said the McCloskeys “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 authorizes each of us to protect our home and family from all potential. threats. ”

Gardner, the first female lawyer for the St. Louis Black Circuit, has been at odds with some of the St. Louis establishment since her election in 2016. Most notably, her office indicted the then governor. Eric Greitens with felony invasion of privacy in 2018 for allegedly taking a compromising photo of a woman during an extramarital affair. The charge was eventually dropped, but Greitens resigned in June 2018.

A private investigator Gardner hired to investigate the allegations against the Greens was then charged with perjury for allegedly lying during a deposition. His case is pending.

Gardner has also clashed with police chiefs, particularly after he drew up an “exclusion list” of more than two dozen officers who were not allowed to serve as primary witnesses in criminal cases because of what Gardner called credibility issues. The move angered Police Chief John Hayden, who is also black.

In January, Gardner filed a federal complaint accusing the city, the police union and others of a coordinated and racist plot to force her out of office. The lawsuit also accused “entrenched interests” of intentionally hampering its efforts to change racist practices.

Several black leaders in St. Louis have expressed support for Gardner, including US Democratic Representative William Lacy Clay, who said protesters “should never be subjected to the threat of lethal force, whether by individuals or by the police ”.

Correction:

This story has been updated to remove an incorrect reference to a second charge, a misdemeanor. No misdemeanor charges have been filed.

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