St. Louis gun-toting controversy

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St. Louis gun-toting controversy
Part of the George Floyd protests in Missouri, protests against Lyda Krewson, and the gun rights movement in the United States
Mark and Patricia McCloskey.jpg
Mark and Patricia McCloskey standing outside of their St. Louis home armed with guns on June 28, 2020
DateJune 28, 2020 (2020-06-28)
Location
Coordinates: 38°38′50″N 90°15′54″W / 38.64716°N 90.26494°W / 38.64716; -90.26494
Caused byProtesters entering a private community

On June 28, 2020, during the George Floyd protests in St. Louis, Missouri, Mark and Patricia McCloskey pointed firearms and yelled at unarmed[1] protesters walking past their house.[2][3][4] Protestors yelled back. The incident gained national news coverage and sparked controversy.[3][4]

St. Louis circuit attorney Kimberly Gardner filed charges against the McCloskey couple on July 20, 2020. This decision drew national attention.[5][6][7] On June 17, 2021, the McCloskeys pled guilty to misdemeanor offenses: Mark for fourth-degree assault, and Patricia for harassment.[1][8] Mark was required to pay a $750 fine, and Patricia $2,000, and their guns used in the incident were required to be surrendered and destroyed.[1] In August 2021, they were both pardoned by Missouri governor Mike Parson. In September 2021 Missouri’s chief disciplinary counsel asked the Supreme Court of Missouri to suspend their law licenses.[9]

Incident[edit]

On June 28, 2020, about 500 Black Lives Matter protesters entered Portland Place, a private gated neighborhood, in an attempt to walk to the home of St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson on an adjacent neighborhood street. The crowd aimed to demonstrate against Mayor Krewson and demand her resignation after she publicly read names and both partial and full addresses of those who had submitted letters calling to defund the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.[10]

Livestreamed video showed the first protesters entering the community by walking through an intact gate that a man was holding open;[11][12] twenty seconds later, the video shows Mark McCloskey with a rifle outside his house, yelling at protesters.[13] McCloskey later told media that the protesters "smashed through the historic wrought iron gates of Portland Place, destroying them, rushed towards my home...put us in fear for our lives", and also that "the gate came down and a large crowd of angry, aggressive people poured through...was terrified that we’d be murdered within seconds".[14] While the gate was damaged at some point in time, it was unclear who had damaged it.[14][15]

As the crowd approached, McCloskey shouted "private property" and "get out" multiple times at protesters. Protesters marched past his home; others marched closer to his home. Mark and Patricia stood outside their front door with an AR-15 and handgun respectively.[16][17] Several protesters confronted Mark and Patricia in front of their home, only several yards apart, exchanging heated words. At one point, Patricia walked onto the grass between her home and the sidewalk where protesters were marching by. Some protesters were heard asking others to leave and move on, while other protesters were heard threatening the McCloskeys. During this time, Mark and Patricia pointed their guns towards the crowd. No shots were fired and there were no injuries. Shortly after the incident, the McCloskeys told reporters that they support the Black Lives Matter movement and civil rights. They later criticized BLM protesters at the 2020 Republican National Convention.[3][4]

There was no evidence that the protesters involved in this incident had weapons, a prosecutor said in 2021.[1] Mark McCloskey in July 2020 had told media that the "people in the crowd in front of my house" were "armed with guns" and that "the police were aware and have video" of that. McCloskey said, "We saw the weapons at the time", and accused one protester of showing loaded magazines and telling him: "You're next".[18][19]

Police investigations[edit]

On June 29, 2020, police were investigating protesters for trespassing and assault by intimidation.[20][21][22] President Donald Trump also retweeted video of the incident.[23] Kimberly Gardner, the circuit attorney (chief prosecutor) for the City of St. Louis, Missouri, told CNN in a statement, "We must protect the right to peacefully protest, and any attempt to chill it through intimidation or threat of deadly force will not be tolerated."[24] These protesters were related to the George Floyd protests in Missouri.

On July 10, 2020, St. Louis police seized Mark McCloskey's rifle. The McCloskeys' previous attorney, Al Watkins, was in possession of the handgun which had been held by Patricia McCloskey, claiming it was to ensure that the handgun was not tampered with. Watkins claimed that the handgun was not functional and could not be fired, and that Patricia knew it was not functional when she held it during the confrontation with the protestors. Watkins then turned over the handgun to the authorities. The handgun had been nonfunctional because it was used as evidence in a previous unrelated trial.[25][26]

On September 30, 2020, police announced they were dropping charges of trespassing against protesters.[27]

Prosecution of the McCloskeys[edit]

On July 20, 2020, St. Louis circuit attorney Kimberly Gardner filed charges against Mark and Patricia McCloskey for unlawful use of a weapon, a class E felony which can carry a sentence of up to four years in prison and a fine of $10,000. This decision drew national attention and criticism from Republican politicians.[5][6][7]

On July 21, 2020, Missouri Attorney General Eric S. Schmitt filed amicus briefs which argue "Missouri's statutes specifically authorize Missouri citizens to use firearms to deter assailants and protect themselves, their families, and homes from threatening or violent intruders" and request dismissal of the cases against the McCloskeys.[28][29] Schmitt expressed his concern for "the chilling effect that this [case] might have with people exercising their Second Amendment rights".[30] Retired Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice Mike Wolff was critical of the intervention, stating that Schmitt "had no role at the trial court level and might be called on to represent prosecutors if the McCloskeys are convicted and appeal".[30]

On July 22, 2020, KMOV reported they had anonymously received a prosecutor's ballistics report, which said the lab had tested both the rifle and the handgun. The rifle fired when tested, but the handgun was not functional and could not be fired. At the request of prosecutor Chris Hinkley, the handgun was stripped and found to be assembled incorrectly. The prosecutor then requested it to be reassembled correctly and test fired again. The handgun then fired properly. The prosecutor's charging documents stated that the handgun was capable of lethal use. The McCloskeys' later attorney, Joel Schwartz, argued if the lab report was authentic, then this action could be considered tampering with evidence, and if the handgun was truly inoperable at the time of the confrontation with protesters, then the prosecutor's charges against Patricia McCloskey should be invalid because the handgun was not readily capable of lethal use.[31]

On July 29, 2020, Schwartz filed a motion to disqualify Gardner and her office from pursuing the case, arguing that she was not neutral. Gardner had sent out campaign literature and fundraising emails in the Democratic primaries referencing the charges against the McCloskeys before any charges were brought against them.[32]

On July 30, 2020, KSDK reported that the lead St. Louis police detective investigating the McCloskey case had refused to sign at least two versions of court documents which were drafted by the prosecutors, showing that police had reviewed videos taken June 28 during the incident and had contended that at least one protester in the crowd was armed and another was wearing a bullet-resistant vest.[33]

On October 6, 2020, a grand jury indicted both of the McCloskeys for exhibiting guns at a protest and tampering with a weapon.[34] Missouri Governor Mike Parson said he would "certainly" pardon the McCloskeys if they were convicted.[35]

On December 11, 2020, Circuit Judge Thomas Clark II disqualified circuit attorney Gardner from prosecuting the case against Mark McCloskey, ruling that the circulating of fundraising emails alluding to the McCloskey case "raises the appearance that she initiated a criminal prosecution for political purposes."[36][37]

On February 24, 2021, U.S. attorney Richard G. Callahan was appointed as a special prosecutor to the case.[38]

On June 17, 2021, the McCloskeys pleaded guilty to misdemeanor offenses, with Mark being charged with fourth-degree assault and Patricia being charged with second-degree harassment.[1] Mark averred that, with all other charges dropped, he had, indeed, "instilled fear" in the mob, as charged, and that he will do the same thing ‘again, and again, and again.’[1][39]

On August 3, 2021, the McCloskeys were pardoned by Missouri governor Mike Parson.[40]

Reaction[edit]

A photograph of the couple taken by United Press International photographer Bill Greenblatt received considerable attention, and quickly became an internet meme.[41] The McCloskeys themselves began using the image as a greeting card, but also sued Greenblatt; with the couple stating that Greenblatt's photo gave them "infamy" and "humiliation", demanding that ownership of the photo should be transferred to them.[42][43]

Mark McCloskey and his attorney, Albert Watkins, appeared on Fox's Tucker Carlson Tonight on June 30, 2020, two days after the incident.[44]

On July 14, President Trump gave an interview with conservative news outlet Townhall, in which he stated support for the McCloskeys.[45][46]

On July 20, following the filing of charges against the couple, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany called those charges an "egregious abuse of power."[47]

In internet memes, the couple have been referred to as "Ken and Karen".[48]

Aftermath[edit]

On August 24, the couple delivered remarks during the 2020 Republican National Convention, in support of the 2nd Amendment and of Trump, while criticizing Black Lives Matter protesters.[49]

In response to the speech, the rabbi of the synagogue abutting the McCloskey property recounted a 2013 incident when Mark McCloskey destroyed the synagogue's beehive rather than asking it be moved away from the property line.[50] The beehive was illegally placed on the McCloskey property and the claim that Mark McCloskey destroyed the beehive is unproven.[51]

In April 2021, Mark McCloskey said in a brief interview with Politico that he was considering entering the 2022 Missouri Senate election as a Republican. On May 18, he announced his bid.[52][53][17] Incumbent Republican Senator Roy Blunt had announced in March 2021 that he would not be running for reelection.[54][55] At a candidates' forum in Osage Beach in mid-October 2021, McCloskey said he believes rape and incest victims as young as 13 should be prohibited from obtaining abortions. He didn't explicitly say whether his no-exceptions view included abortions necessary to save the life of the mother.[56]

In September 2021, Missouri’s chief disciplinary counsel asked the Supreme Court of Missouri to suspend the law licenses of the McCloskeys due to an “indifference to public safety” and “moral turpitude”.[57]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Ryan, Monica; Willeke, Becky (June 17, 2021). "Gun-waiving couple plead guilty to misdemeanors". KTVI. Retrieved June 17, 2021.
  2. ^ "St. Louis prosecutor to detective on McCloskey case: 'I suggest you quickly reassess this evidence'". KSDK. Retrieved August 8, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c Bonvillian, Crystal. "White St. Louis lawyers pull weapons on peaceful protesters marching through neighborhood". KOKI. Retrieved July 31, 2020.
  4. ^ a b c Kinsaul, Russell. "McCloskeys say they support BLM and fight for civil rights, but were 'victim of a mob'". KMOV.com. Retrieved July 31, 2020.
  5. ^ a b "St. Louis Prosecutor Charges White Couple With Threatening Protesters With Guns". NPR.org. Retrieved July 31, 2020.
  6. ^ a b "Charges Filed Against McCloskeys, St. Louis Couple Who Pointed Guns Toward Protesters". St. Louis Public Radio. July 20, 2020. Retrieved July 31, 2020.
  7. ^ a b "Missouri attorney general wants charges dropped against the McCloskeys". KSDK. Retrieved July 31, 2020.
  8. ^ Ruiz, Michael (June 17, 2021). "St. Louis couple Mark, Patricia McCloskey pay fines, lose guns in guilty plea over encounter with rioters". Fox News. Retrieved June 18, 2021.
  9. ^ "St. Louis Couple Who Waved Guns At BLM Protesters Face Suspension Of Their Law Licenses". KCUR 89.3 - NPR in Kansas City. Local news, entertainment and podcasts. September 20, 2021. Retrieved September 21, 2021.
  10. ^ Staff, KMOV com. "Central West End couple explains why they pointed guns at protesters who demanded Krewson's resignation". KMOV.com. Retrieved August 8, 2020.
  11. ^ Machi, Sara (July 15, 2020). "Video shows gate was intact when St. Louis couple pointed guns at protesters". KSDK. Retrieved June 18, 2021.
  12. ^ Lussenhop, Jessica (August 25, 2020). "Mark and Patricia McCloskey: What really went on in St Louis that day?". Retrieved June 18, 2021.
  13. ^ Murphy, Paul; Ebrahimji, Alisha (June 29, 2020). "St. Louis couple pulls firearms on protesters cutting through their private street". CNN. Retrieved June 18, 2021.
  14. ^ a b "Central West End couple explains why they pointed guns at protesters who demanded Krewson's resignation". KMOV. June 29, 2020. Retrieved June 18, 2021.
  15. ^ Kohler, Jeremy (July 1, 2020). "Watch now: About that broken gate at Portland Place". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved June 18, 2021.
  16. ^ Wamsley, Laurel (October 14, 2020). "Gun-Waving St. Louis Couple Plead Not Guilty To 2 Felony Charges". NPR. Retrieved May 25, 2021.
  17. ^ a b "St. Louis attorney who waved rifle at protesters files to run for Senate". May 18, 2021.
  18. ^ Garcia, Victor (July 30, 2020). "St. Louis homeowner Mark McCloskey tells 'Hannity' police have video of armed protesters at his home". Fox News. Retrieved July 31, 2020.
  19. ^ Miller, Joshua Rhett (July 31, 2020). "St. Louis man charged in standoff claims cops have video of armed protesters". New York Post. Retrieved July 31, 2020.
  20. ^ "St. Louis Couple Point Guns at Protesters Headed to Mayor's House". Time. Associated Press. June 29, 2020. Archived from the original on June 29, 2020. Retrieved July 31, 2020.
  21. ^ Walker, Alissa (June 29, 2020). "How St. Louis' Privatized Streets Led to a Gun-Brandishing Couple". Curbed. Retrieved July 31, 2020.
  22. ^ Bell, Kim; Rice, Rachel; Currier, Joel. "St. Louis couple who pointed guns at protesters saw threat by 'bad actors,' lawyer says; protester says he feared 'bloodbath'". STLtoday.com. Retrieved July 31, 2020.
  23. ^ Pengelly, Martin; Beckett, Lois (June 29, 2020). "Trump retweets video of white St Louis couple pointing guns at protesters". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved August 1, 2020.
  24. ^ "St. Louis couple pulls firearms on protesters cutting through their private street". CNN. Retrieved July 31, 2020.
  25. ^ "Police seize rifle from St. Louis couple who pulled guns on protesters". NBC News. Retrieved July 31, 2020.
  26. ^ "Police seize gun at home of St. Louis couple who pointed weapons at protesters". www.cbsnews.com. Retrieved July 31, 2020.
  27. ^ Patrick, Robert (September 30, 2020). "St. Louis officials won't prosecute trespassing cases in protest on Portland Place". The St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  28. ^ "Amicus Brief of Attorney General Eric Schmitt Supporting Dismissal Of The Case Against Mark McCloskey" (PDF).
  29. ^ "Amicus Brief of Attorney General Eric Schmitt Supporting Dismissal Of The Case Against Patricia McCloskey" (PDF).
  30. ^ a b Patrick, Kurt Erickson, Jack Suntrup, Robert. "Missouri attorney general defends intervention in McCloskey prosecution". STLtoday.com. Retrieved August 8, 2020.
  31. ^ Trager, Lauren. "Report: Patricia McCloskey's handgun inoperable when seized by police". KMOV.com. Retrieved July 31, 2020.
  32. ^ "Attorney for Mark & Patricia McCloskey files motion to disqualify Gardner, her office from pursuing case". KMOV.com. Retrieved July 31, 2020.
  33. ^ "St. Louis prosecutor to detective on McCloskey case: 'I suggest you quickly reassess this evidence'". KSDK. Retrieved July 31, 2020.
  34. ^ Orecchio-Egresitz, Haven (October 6, 2020). "Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the gun-waving St. Louis couple who threatened protesters outside their home, have been indicted on weapon and evidence-tampering charges". Business Insider. Retrieved October 6, 2020.
  35. ^ "Parson says he'd 'certainly' pardon the McCloskeys, the St. Louis couple indicted on evidence tampering and gun charges".
  36. ^ Byers, Christine (December 10, 2020). "Judge dismisses St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner from Mark McCloskey case". The St. Louis American. Archived from the original on December 26, 2020. Retrieved January 17, 2021.
  37. ^ Romo, Vanessa (December 11, 2020). "St. Louis Prosecutor Taken Off Case Of Couple Who Brandished Guns At BLM Protesters". National Public Radio. Retrieved January 17, 2021.
  38. ^ Willeke, Becky (February 24, 2021). "Special prosecutor appointed in case of gun-waving couple in St. Louis". KTVI. Retrieved February 24, 2021.
  39. ^ McCloskey says ‘I’ll do the same thing again’ after pleading guilty in gun case, McCloskey says ‘I’ll do the same thing again’ after pleading guilty in gun case, KTVI
  40. ^ Paul LeBlanc and Keith Allen. "Missouri governor pardons St. Louis couple who pointed guns at protesters". CNN. Retrieved August 4, 2021.
  41. ^ Marcin, Tim (June 29, 2020). "Gun-toting Karen and Ken spawn a thousand memes after pointing weapons at protesters". Mashable. Retrieved February 17, 2021.
  42. ^ Holleman, Joe (October 28, 2020). "UPI looks at photo copyright issues with McCloskeys' greting cards". The St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved February 17, 2021.
  43. ^ Owen, Tess (November 10, 2020). "The St. Louis McCloskeys Have a Lot of Feelings About the Gun Photo That Made Them Famous". Vice. Retrieved February 17, 2021.
  44. ^ Feldman, Josh (June 30, 2020). "Armed St. Louis Man Speaks Out to Tucker Carlson: I Was Afraid 'I Was Going to Be Killed'". Mediaite. Retrieved August 18, 2020.
  45. ^ Pavlich, Katie. "Exclusive: President Trump defends armed St. Louis couple against the mob". Youtube. Townhall Media.
  46. ^ McEvoy, Jemima. "Trump Defends St. Louis Couple Who Pointed Guns At Protesters". Forbes. Retrieved July 31, 2020.
  47. ^ Salter, Jim (July 20, 2020). "White House decries gun charges for St. Louis couple". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 18, 2020.
  48. ^ Berkowitz, Joe (June 29, 2020). "'Ken and Karen,' the wealthy couple who pulled guns on protesters, inspired some genius memes". Fast Company. Retrieved April 4, 2021.
  49. ^ Collins, Kaitlan; Kelly, Caroline; Judd, Donald (August 18, 2020). "St. Louis couple who pointed guns at protesters to speak at Republican convention". CNN. Retrieved August 18, 2020.
  50. ^ Eshman, Rob (August 24, 2020). "The rabbi who is neighbor to Mark and Patricia McCloskey speaks out: 'They are bullies'". The Forward.
  51. ^ Dapcevich, Madison (May 19, 2021). "Did Mark McCloskey Once Destroy a Neighboring Synagogue's Beehives?". Snopes.
  52. ^ Isenstadt, Alex (April 20, 2021). "Mark McCloskey, gun-toting St. Louis lawyer, considering Senate bid". Politico. Retrieved April 20, 2021.
  53. ^ "Mark McCloskey announces candidacy for US Senate". FOX 2. May 18, 2021. Retrieved May 18, 2021.
  54. ^ Clare Foran, Ted Barrett, Ethan Cohen and Alex Rogers. "GOP Sen. Roy Blunt announces he will not run for reelection". CNN. Retrieved June 18, 2021.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  55. ^ Andrew Desiderio. "Sen. Roy Blunt won't run for reelection in latest blow to GOP". POLITICO. Retrieved June 18, 2021.
  56. ^ Missouri Senate candidate Mark McCloskey says teen incest victims should be denied abortions, The Kansas City Star, Jeanne Kuang and Jonathan Shorman, Oct 27, 2021. Retrieved October 28, 2021.
  57. ^ "St. Louis Couple Who Waved Guns At BLM Protesters Face Suspension Of Their Law Licenses". KCUR 89.3 - NPR in Kansas City. Local news, entertainment and podcasts. September 20, 2021. Retrieved September 21, 2021.