The St. Louis couple seen in a viral video brandishing firearms as Black Lives Matter protesters marched near their home were charged, coming shortly after Republican Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said they would likely be pardoned.
Mark and Patricia McCloskey were charged by St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner with unlawful use of a weapon, a felony, she announced. They also face a misdemeanor charge of fourth-degree assault.
“It is illegal to wave weapons in a threatening manner at those participating in nonviolent protest,” Gardner, a Democrat, said in a statement on Monday. “This type of conduct is unacceptable in St. Louis,” she added.
Gardner told The Associated Press that she is recommending a diversion program such as community service rather than jail time if the couple is convicted. In the statement, Gardner said the charges came after a police investigation.
The McCloskeys’ lawyer, Joel Schwartz, called the charges “disheartening as I unequivocally believe no crime was committed.”
Schwartz added that “the First Amendment right of every citizen to have their voice and opinion heard… 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 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He previously said that “based upon Missouri law and the Castle Doctrine, the McCloskeys were 100 percent within their rights.”
The couple, who are both lawyers, said they feared for their lives when protesters were seen on their street. They were going to the house of Democrat St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson to protest perceived injustices.
Mark McCloskey and lawyers for the couple have alleged that the protesters broke down the gate and entered a private residential street. Protesters have denied his claims, saying they came through an unlocked gate, according to the Dispatch.
“I believe in my heart of hearts that the only thing that kept those mobsters, that crowd, away from us is that we were standing there with guns,” Mark McCloskey told the paper.
In the video footage captured last month, the couple were seen telling protesters to leave.
Last week, Parson, a Republican, said that he will likely pardon the couple if they are convicted.
“I think that’s exactly what would happen,” Parson said when asked about a possible pardon in a radio interview. He added: “I don’t think they’re going to spend any time in jail.”