The Slatest

St. Louis Couple Charged With Felony for Wildly Brandishing Weapons at BLM Protesters

Mark and Patricia McCloskey each brandish a gun at protesters in the foreground
Mark and Patricia McCloskey in front of their house in the Central West End of St. Louis as they confront protesters on June 28. Laurie Skrivan/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS/

The white St. Louis couple who aimed weapons at Black Lives Matter protesters in front of their home last month were charged with felony counts of unlawful use of a weapon. The charge was announced Monday by Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner weeks after a viral video showed Mark and Patricia McCloskey, both in their 60s, come out of their home pointing weapons, including a semi-automatic rifle, at protesters in the street nearby. At the time, several hundred protesters were making their way to the home of the city’s Democratic mayor nearby to protest. As they passed, Mark McCloskey emerged wearing khakis and a tucked-in pink polo shirt while swinging around the semi-automatic rifle. Patricia McCloskey looked wild-eyed as she unevenly pointed a pistol in the direction of the protesters. The couple’s wild conduct during the standoff with peaceful protesters who were largely Black was ludicrous verging on parody. It was also clearly dangerous and, according to the district prosecutor, against the law.

“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. The couple, both of whom are personal injury attorneys, said they were scared for their safety, as one does to lay the groundwork to try to get away with violent conduct, particularly against people of color. The Class E felony charge carries with it a potential four-year prison sentence, though Gardner is pushing for a diversion program that would result in community service.

The charges have prompted the usual apoplectic response from the gun-toting right. Moments after the charges were filed, the state attorney general filed a brief calling for the charges to be dismissed. The basis for the dismissal is Missouri’s Castle Doctrine, which allows residents wide legal leeway in “protecting” their homes. It is a measure that has been pushed by the National Rifle Association at the state legislature level across the country and has had the effect of legalizing white violence under the auspices of an expansive definition of self-defense to include one’s property. On cue, the Republican establishment—from President Donald Trump down to Missouri Gov. Mike Parson and Sen. Josh Hawley—has called for a civil rights investigation into the prosecutor for having the audacity to investigate, and ultimately prosecute, the matter.

A lawyer for the couple 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 entitle each of us to protect our home and family from potential threats.” Potential threats, not actual ones. Not that the distinction will actually matter, as the state’s Republican governor has suggested he will pardon the couple, short-circuiting the legal system before it has even warmed up.

For more of Slate’s news coverage, subscribe to What Next on Apple Podcasts or listen below.