Missouri Gov. Mike Parson made good on his promise and pardoned the couple who gained national attention after waving their guns at social justice demonstrators who marched past their home in St. Louis last year. Mark McCloskey had pleaded guilty to misdemeanor fourth-degree assault and was fined $750, while Patricia McCloskey pleaded guilty to misdemeanor harassment and was fined $2,000. Neither one was facing jail time, and because the convictions were misdemeanors, they didn’t face the prospect of losing their law licenses or their rights to own guns.
The McCloskeys celebrated the pardon. “They’re thrilled,” the couple’s attorney Joel Schwartz said. “As Mark McCloskey has stated, if he faced the same situation again, he would conduct himself in the same manner, and he feels he’s been vindicated by the governor’s pardon.” Parson, a Republican who has made gun rights advocacy into one of his signature issues, had already said he would pardon the couple.
The couple, who are both lawyers, have said they felt threatened by the protesters who marched on a private street on June 28, 2020. They waved their guns around as the protesters, many of whom were Black, passed by, accusing them of trespassing on their property. Mark McCloskey carried an AR-15-style rifle, and Patricia McCloskey had a semi-automatic pistol. The images of the gun-toting couple quickly went viral, and the McCloskeys gained national notoriety. Even then-President Donald Trump retweeted a video of the couple that quickly came to symbolize the country’s divisions as hundreds of protests took place across the country following the death of George Floyd.
Special prosecutor Richard Callahan, who took over investigation of the case after a previous prosecutor was kicked off after she mentioned the couple in campaign material, said the demonstrators were peaceful. “There was no evidence that any of them had a weapon and no one I interviewed realized they had ventured onto a private enclave,” Callahan said in a statement.
All the national attention helped the McCloskeys gain national prominence as Republican leaders and conservative activists rallied to their defense. The couple even spoke at last year’s Republican National Convention, and Mark McCloskey is now running for a U.S. Senate seat from Missouri. He has never expressed any regret for his actions even as he agreed that he had put protesters in danger. “I’d do it again,” he said earlier this year. “Any time the mob approaches me, I’ll do what I can to put them in imminent threat of physical injury because that’s what kept them from destroying my house and my family.”
Democrats criticized the governor for the pardon, particularly considering there is a large backlog of clemency requests in the state. Parson still hasn’t taken action on inmate Kevin Strickland who has been behind bars for decades even though several prosecutors have said he is innocent of a 1978 triple homicide. Parson says he isn’t convinced of Strickland’s innocence. “It is beyond disgusting that Mark and Patricia McCloskey admitted they broke the law and within weeks are rewarded with pardons, yet men like Kevin Strickland, who has spent more than 40 years in prison for crimes even prosecutors now say he didn’t commit, remain behind bars with no hope of clemency,” Missouri House Democratic Minority Leader Crystal Quade said in a statement.