Missouri Gov. Mike Parson on Tuesday defended the couple who aimed guns at protesters marching on the street in front of their St. Louis home, saying they “had every right to protect their property.”
Mark and Patricia McCloskey made national news after they drew their weapons at Black Lives Matter protesters marching through a gated community to Mayor Lyda Krewson’s house on June 28. Their weapons were later turned over to authorities, but they have not been charged with any crime. KMOV-TV reported Tuesday that police have applied for unspecified warrants.
Parson, a former Polk County sheriff, said the castle doctrine, which he helped craft during his time in the state Legislature, protects the couple from any charges. This law allows property owners to use necessary force against intruders and relieves them of their “duty to retreat” in certain circumstances.
At his regular press briefing on Tuesday, Parson said this is “the exact (law) the McCloskeys were defending their property with in St. Louis, which they had every right to do under the castle doctrine.”
However, a 2016 Missouri Court of Appeals decision in State v. Whipple may contradict Parson. The court’s ruling said physical force should only be used “when and 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 by such other person.”
The McCloskeys’ attorney could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.
Parson said St. Louis prosecutor Kim Gardner was trying to take away “constitutional rights” of the McCloskeys “by filing charges against them.” He insinuated that he may try to remove Gardner from her post with the help of President Donald Trump.
“I just got off the phone with the president of the United States before I got out here today,” Parson said. “He understands the situation in Missouri; he understands the situation in St. Louis and how out of control it is for a prosecutor to let violent criminals off and not do their job and try to attack law-abiding citizens. The conversation I had with the president said that he would do everything he could within his powers to help with this situation and that he would be taking action.”
Gardner said in a statement that Parson and Trump “came after” her for simply doing her job.
“It is unbelievable the governor of the state of Missouri would seek advice from one of the most divisive leaders in our generation to overpower the discretion of a locally elected prosecutor,” Gardner said. “It is also incredible that at a time when our nation is dealing with a rapidly spreading deadly virus and our state reported a record number of new infections, they are launching these dog-whistle attacks against me. They should be focused on their jobs, and I’ll focus on mine.”
Parson also suggested legislators work to change laws that make it difficult to remove elected officials from office.
“It is very difficult … one of the things we need to address in future sessions,” he said.
Special legislative session on violent crime
Parson is expected to announce details Wednesday about a special session to address violent crime throughout the state.
Parson, who has condemned the killing of George Floyd, has yet to suggest any tangible solutions on the subject of police brutality against Black people and other people of color. He has also not spoken about systemic racism, but said there is a serious need to support law enforcement.
“We have to give law enforcement the tools they need to fight violent crime,” Parson said. “And right now, more important than anything, we’ve got to stand up for these law enforcement officers that are dealing with violent crime.”
Last year, Missouri Democrats and the Legislative Black Caucus called on the governor to call a special session to address gun violence after a deadly summer in St. Louis and other urban areas. Instead, the governor called a special session on a motor vehicle sales tax that ran concurrently with the state’s annual veto session.
At the time, Parson said there was not enough time in a special session to result in any change. He said topics as divisive as gun violence should be saved for regular session.
“Special session, you want to do something in the limited time you think you can get a fix to,” he said in August. “I’m not for sure you get anything from a special session on the gun violence.”
Parson said he is “in the process” of reaching out to legislators to discuss what they will address in a special session this summer, including Democrats and the Legislative Black Caucus.
Correction: President Donald Trump called Gov. Mike Parson to offer his support for Mark and Patricia McCloskey. An earlier headline on this article incorrectly reported Parson asked Trump to get involved.