The St. Louis prosecutor who is investigating the couple who in late June pointed guns at a group of people protesting racial injustice said Tuesday that Missouri's governor and President Donald Trump "came after" her for doing her job.
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner accused Gov. Mike Parson and Trump of playing politics, "spreading misinformation and distorting the truth" after Parson told reporters the president would be “getting involved” in the case Tuesday. Gardner noted that she hasn't decided whether to file charges against Mark and Patricia McCloskey, a white couple seen on video pointing guns at protesters outside their home in an upscale neighborhood.
"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 in a statement.
1/ Today, both the Governor and Donald Trump came after me for doing my job and investigating a case. While they continue to play politics with the handling of this matter, spreading misinformation and distorting the truth, I refuse to do so. (Full statement below) pic.twitter.com/9T5RdvFSOI
— Circuit Attorney (@stlcao) July 14, 2020
At a press conference Tuesday, Parson said that he'd spoken to Trump and U.S. Attorney General William Barr on the phone and that Trump “understands the situation in Missouri."
“The president said he would do everything he could within his powers to help with this situation, that he would be taking action to do that," Parson said. "I’m thankful that he’s getting involved in the situation, I’m thankful that he’s going to stand up for people on their legal rights and we’re going to move forward in this state."
Parson, a Republican and a staunch Trump supporter, is also a former sheriff and state representative who co-authored Missouri's "castle doctrine" law that justifies the use of deadly force when protecting one's home. Parson said he told Trump that it's difficult to remove an elected official from office in Missouri, though he didn't say if Trump had asked if Gardner could be removed.
"I think the president didn't like what he was seeing, and the way people are being treated," Parson said. "I think you'll see some sort of actions."
Trump previously called the idea of prosecuting the couple a "disgrace" in an interview Tuesday with Townhall Media.
"They were going to be beat up badly, if they were lucky," he said, suggesting that their house was going to be ransacked and burned.
Video from the protest circulating on social media shows Mark McCloskey pointing a semi-automatic rifle and Patricia McCloskey pointing a hand gun at the crowd walking past their home in the Central West End neighborhood of St. Louis.
The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department said it responded to a "call for help" from the 63-year-old man and 61-year-old woman around 5:30 p.m. on June 28. The pair said they went to investigate a loud commotion coming from the street and saw a group of people break an iron gate marked with "No Trespassing" and "Private Street" signs, according to police.
Mark McCloskey told KMOV-TV that he and his wife were facing an “angry mob” of at least 100 people on their private street and feared for their lives.
“It was like the storming of the Bastille, the gate came down and a large crowd of angry, aggressive people poured through,” he said. “I was terrified that we’d be murdered within seconds. Our house would be burned down, our pets would be killed.”
The man and woman said they told the group to leave and the group "began yelling obscenities and threats of harm to both victims," according to police.
'Threat of deadly force will not be tolerated': Prosecutor launches investigation after white couple seen pointing guns at St. Louis protesters
“One fellow standing right in front of me pulled out two pistol magazines, clicked them together and said you’re next," McCloskey told KMOV.
Police said when the couple saw multiple people were armed, they armed themselves and called 911. Law enforcement said the investigation is ongoing.
The McCloskeys' attorney, Albert Watkins, told USA TODAY their actions were "born of abject fear of imminent harm," but were not related to race, noting that the protesters they were fearful of were white.
"They are appalled that they have been portrayed in a fashion which they believe is going to be used by some to support the position that it's time to grab the Confederate flag and grab a gun and protect ourselves against the BLM movement," he said. "My clients know that they looked like lunatics."
Rasheen Aldridge, who helped lead the protest organized by a group called Expect Us, told USA TODAY that protesters were nonviolent and denied that any protesters were armed.
"He did not have to come outside and point his gun directly at individuals," Aldridge said of Mark McCloskey. "That is recklessness. It's endangerment."
The protesters were marching after St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson read the names and addresses of people who wrote letters to her calling to defund the police during a Friday afternoon Facebook Live video. Although the names and letters are considered public records, Krewson’s actions received heavy backlash, including from the ACLU of Missouri.
The mayor apologized on Twitter and said the video had been removed.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Prosecutor investigating St. Louis couple said Trump "came after" her