A Missouri couple that was seen in now a now-viral video pointing guns at a group of Black Lives Matter protesters in St. Louis, Missouri, in June is now facing charges. In a statement on Monday, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner confirmed that Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the White couple seen brandishing weapons in the video, have each been charged with felony unlawful use of a weapon, a class E felony.
The charges came after the couple forfeited their weapons earlier this month after a warrant was issued and follow an investigation into the June 28 incident. In videos that quickly spread on social media, the McCloskey's were seen standing outside of their home, located in the upscale Central West End neighborhood, with Mark carrying an automatic rifle and Patricia holding a pistol. At several points, they pointed the weapons at the crowd, who were making their way towards the home of the mayor, the couple later claiming in a statement that they were "in fear of imminent harm." According to Gardner, and as reported by NBC News, "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."
Attorney Joel Schwartz, who is defending the couple, claimed that he feels "unequivocally" that no crime was committed, and that he and his clients "support the First Amendment right of every citizen to have their voice and opinion heard." He said that 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." According to CNN, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt has already filed a brief in the case to have it dismissed, citing the Castle Doctrine, which gives Missourians "broad rights" in protecting property and lives.
Although listed as a class E felony, Gardner said that her office is willing to recommend a diversion program for the couple, as she believes "this would serve as a fair resolution to this matter." Such a deal would avoid a court trial a conviction record, though even if the case does move forward, the McCloskeys may not have much to worry about. Shortly after authorities filed charges, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson called them "outrageous" and vowed to pardon the couple if they are convicted.
In a series of tweets, Parson said that he would "do everything I can under the Constitution to protect law-abiding citizens in our state," adding that the McCloskeys "had every right to defend their home." He also slammed Gardner, stating that "we must prioritize laws that keep our citizens safe over political motivations."