By KARMA ALLEN, ABC News
(ST. LOUIS) — Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed briefings in support of a St. Louis couple charged for brandishing their guns at civil rights protesters outside their mansion last month, claiming self defense.
St. Louis’ top prosecutor charged Mark and Patricia McCloskey on Monday with felony unlawful use of a weapon for allegedly displaying their guns in a threatening manner, but Schmitt said he’s seeking to have those charges dropped.
“Enough is enough,” Schmitt said in a video statement shortly after the charges were filed. “A political prosecution such as this one would have a chilling effect on Missourians exercising the right to self defense.”
Schmitt said the couple, both white attorneys in their 60s, has the right to keep and bear arms under state laws and it’s a right that he plans to protect, according to the statement.
“And yet in the wake of radical calls to defund the police, and with rates of violent crimes skyrocketing each day,” Schmitt said, “the St. Louis circuit attorney filed suit against a St. Louis couple who according to published reports were doing just that — defending the safety of their family and their property.”
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner announced charges against Mark and Patricia McCloskey on Monday and said they could face an additional misdemeanor fourth-degree assault charge.
“It is illegal to wave weapons in a threatening manner — that is unlawful in the city of St. Louis,” Gardner said in a statement.
Gardner, St. Louis’ first Black circuit attorney, is recommending a diversion program such as community service rather than jail time if the McCloskeys are convicted.
The couple made national headlines in June when they became famous for waving their guns at protesters in a now-viral video.
The McCloskeys said they came outside after hearing commotion caused by hundreds of protesters nearby who were marching against police brutality against Black people.
The couple said they pulled their firearms, a handgun and a long-barreled gun, after seeing people break through a gate with “No Trespassing” and “Private Street” signs posted.
Their stories sparked debate on both sides of the political spectrum with some saying they had every right to defend private property and others accusing them of racism.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, said last week he would consider pardoning the couple if they were charged. He called the criminal charges against them “outrageous” in a tweet on Monday, noting that the city had a “backlog” of homicide cases to focus on.
“Kim Gardner’s action toward the McCloskeys is outrageous,” Parson said. “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.”
“We must prioritize laws that keep our citizens safe over political motivations. Kim Gardner owes every single family who has had a loved one murdered an explanation on why she has acted on the McCloskey case instead of theirs,” he added.
The McCloskeys’ attorney, Albert Watkins, said they are longtime civil rights advocates and support the message of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Watkins called the charges “disheartening” and maintained that no crime had been committed. They will both be issued summons to appear in court at a later date.
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