St. Louis couple who waved guns at protesters say they were defending themselves against a violent mob
In a 38-page response to a complaint filed requesting that the Missouri Supreme Court suspend their law licenses, Mark and Patricia McCloskey say violent riots and protests in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis justified their actions.
The married St. Louis lawyers who brandished guns at protesters on the evening of June 28, 2020, and are now facing disciplinary charges claim they were only defending their property from a violent mob intent on mayhem and looting.
In a 38-page response to a complaint asking the Missouri Supreme Court to suspend their law licenses, Mark and Patricia McCloskey say violent riots and protests in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis that summer justified their actions.
“The summer of 2020 was a period of civil unrest unlike anything the United States had seen in more than forty years,” their response states, describing looting, rioting and violence committed by extremists “from both the far-left and far-right” who “infiltrated many of the protests.”
Their response asserts that the protests in St. Louis that June “involved significant unlawful and violent conduct.”
It cites a report by the Major Cities Chiefs Association finding that nearly 89% of protests in St. Louis in June 2020 involved unlawful activity and 11% involved some level of violence.
The McCloskeys contend that from 350 to 500 protesters, some carrying weapons, broke off from a group marching to the home of then-St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson on the evening of June 28, 2020, ignoring signs they were entering a private street, destroying a wrought iron gate and massing in front of the McCloskeys’ home.
The McCloskeys “were sitting on their patio, barefoot, eating dinner with their adult daughter,” according to the response, when the protesters “forcefully trespassed” onto their street — actions they say constituted criminal rioting under Missouri law.
The response goes on to say that the “assembled rioters began shouting death, rape and arson threats at the McCloskeys, causing the McCloskeys to fear for themselves, their daughter, and their property, including their 110-year-old home that the McCloskeys had spent three decades carefully restoring.”
The McCloskeys were protecting “their lives, home, and property by displaying firearms” and holding off “the threatening mob,” the response states.
The response says that the pistol Patricia McCloskey waved at protesters had previously been used in litigation “and had been intentionally rendered non-operational. Patty knew this when she took the pistol from the drawer.”
The protesters caused “severe emotional injury to the McCloskeys,” the response states. “To this day, Patty is reduced to tears within seconds of watching videos of the riot.”
The response comes two months after Missouri’s chief disciplinary counsel, Alan D. Pratzel, recommended that the Missouri Supreme Court indefinitely suspend the McCloskeys’ law licenses with no leave for them to reapply for reinstatement for six months.
Pratzel noted that Mark McCloskey pleaded guilty this past June to misdemeanor fourth-degree assault and Patricia McCloskey pleaded guilty on the same date to misdemeanor harassment. Mark McCloskey was fined $750 and Patricia McCloskey was fined $2,000.
Pratzel said both crimes showed “indifference to public safety” and involved “moral turpitude,” warranting discipline of the pair.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, pardoned the McCloskeys on July 30, as he had promised to do if they faced criminal charges.
In his complaint, Pratzel said the pardon, while erasing the McCloskeys' convictions, did not erase their guilt. But in their response, the McCloskeys contend the pardon “obliterated” their conviction and demonstrates that their conduct did not constitute moral turpitude.
The MCloskeys practice law together as the McCloskey Law Center. Both have been licensed attorneys since 1986.
The now-iconic photo of the couple waving their guns at protesters quickly thrust the couple into the national limelight. As their response notes, the two were invited to speak at the Republican National Convention in August 2020.
Mark McCloskey is seeking the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Roy Blunt. At least five other candidates are vying for the nomination: Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt; former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, who resigned in 2018 amid allegations of sexual misconduct and campaign finance violations; U.S. Reps. Vicky Hartzler and Billy Long; and Missouri Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, who announced he’s running just this week.
The McCloskeys are represented by Mike Downey, who specializes in legal ethics and whom Missouri Lawyers Media in 2014 described as the “go-to legal ethics counsel in Missouri.”
In arguing that the McCloskeys are not guilty of moral turpitude, the McCloskeys' response notes that public support for them has been “widespread, loud and proud.”
“They have received numerous awards, an invitation to speak about law enforcement and protection of personal property at the 2020 Republic National Convention, and more than 300 letters of support from clients and former clients, attorneys, and people across the United States and from at least seven foreign countries,” the response states.
Included with the response are what it says are more than 250 unsolicited letters of support.