Were Mark and Patricia McCloskey within their rights to point guns at protesters?
The St. Louis couple who pointed guns at protesters walking past their house claim they feared for their lives because of the “angry mob.”
Mark McCloskey, 63, and his wife, Patricia, 61 — both personal-injury lawyers — were caught on video brandishing weapons and yelling at protesters who were on their way to demonstrate in front of the mayor’s house on Sunday evening.
Daniel Shular, a reporter, took one of the videos and said he watched the entire incident unfold over the course of 10 minutes. He said the crowd of protesters — estimates range from 300 to 500 — had entered the gated neighborhood and were walking past the McCloskeys’ house. The front yard is not fenced.
Mark McCloskey told CNN affiliate KMOV that “a mob of at least 100 smashed through the historic wrought-iron gates of Portland Place, destroying them, rushed towards my home where my family was having dinner outside and put us in fear of our lives.”
Shular, however, told CNN that the protesters entered through an unlocked gate. It was not damaged at that time, he said.
A video livestreamed on Facebook shows the left side of the gate being held open as protesters enter the street. That video does not show how it was first opened. A later Facebook Live video shows the right side of the gate bent.
McCloskey told KMOV that the whole neighborhood is private property, with signs prohibiting anyone but residents from entering. “There are no public sidewalks or public streets,” he said. ” … We were all alone facing an angry mob.”
In the videos by Shular and by Avery Risch, the McCloskeys yell, “Get out! This is private property!” He is holding a rifle and she a handgun.
It also appears that the couple and the protesters exchange words, but it’s unclear what is said. Mark McCloskey claims some protesters made death threats.
Risch told CNN: “Organizers and clergy were actively warning people prior to entering the street that there was a couple with guns and if you weren’t comfortable with that, do not enter the street. Organizers and clergy were also moving the crowd along and encouraging everyone to not give them the time of day.”
Missouri has an expansive “castle law” that permits a resident to use physical force “to the extent he or she reasonably believes such force to be necessary to defend himself or herself or a third person from what he or she reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of unlawful force.”
But in a series of tweets addressing the McCloskey matter, Kansas University law professor Corey Yung said Missouri’s law “does not allow deadly force to be used to merely defend private property (excepting the home itself).”
The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department told CNN it is investigating the incident. Circuit Attorney for the city Kimberly M. Gardner issued a statement that she was alarmed by the events and her office is investigating.
“We must protect the right to peacefully protest, and any attempt to chill it through intimidation or threat of deadly force will not be tolerated,” she said in her statement. “Make no mistake: we will not tolerate the use of force against those exercising their First Amendment rights, and will use the full power of Missouri law to hold people accountable.”
The protesters walking along Portland Place were headed to the nearby home of Mayor Lyda Krewson. They intended to speak against an incident Friday in which she read aloud at a press conference the names and home addresses of people who had written letters asking for police reform.