A St. Louis prosecutor is launching an investigation after a white couple was seen on video pointing guns at protesters outside their home in an upscale neighborhood.
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 upscale Central West End neighborhood of the Missouri city Sunday night. President Donald Trump retweeted a video of the confrontation posted by an ABC News account.
Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner said Monday that her office is working with police to investigate the situation.
“I am alarmed at the events that occurred over the weekend, where peaceful protesters were met by guns and a violent assault,” she said. An assault happened Saturday at a protest over a statue of King Louis IX.
“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.”
The McCloskeys' attorney, Albert Watkins, told USA TODAY that he doesn't believe Gardner "is possessed of the legal wherewithal to understand some of these fundamental tenets."
"Any suggestion that my clients acted unlawfully is one which would demonstrate unequivocally the wholesale absence of appreciation for longstanding law in the state of Missouri," he said.
The couple are lawyers who have routinely worked on civil rights cases and are supportive of the Black Lives Matter message and peaceful protesting, Watkins said. He said their actions on Sunday 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 its 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."
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. Sunday. 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 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.
“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.
Rasheen Aldridge, who helped lead the protest organized by a group called Expect Us, told KMOV that protesters were peaceful and denied that any threats were made.
“Just like in many disobedient protests, even in the 60s, you break laws, make people feel uncomfortable," Aldridge said. "We’re not doing anything where we’re hurting anyone or putting anyone in danger.”
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.
"It is shocking and misguided for Mayor Lyda Krewson of St. Louis to broadcast the addresses of those who dare to express a different viewpoint on an issue of public concern," the ACLU said in a statement. "It serves no apparent purpose beyond intimidation."
The mayor apologized Friday on Twitter and said the video had been removed.
"I'd like to apologize for identifying individuals who presented letters to me at City Hall today," Krewson tweeted. "Never did I intend to harm anyone or cause distress."
I’d like to apologize for identifying individuals who presented letters to me at City Hall today. This was during one of my Facebook updates as I was answering routine questions. Never did I intend to harm anyone or cause distress. The update is removed and again, I apologize.
— Mayor Lyda Krewson (@LydaKrewson) June 27, 2020
Despite the demonstrations and an online petition calling for Krewson’s resignation with more than 51,000 signatures, a spokesperson for Krewson told CNN she will not be stepping down.
"Mayor has apologized, acknowledged the mistake and that there was absolutely no malicious intent, and took down the video," the mayor's communications director, Jacob Long, told the outlet. "She won't be resigning."
Contributing: The Associated Press
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: McCloskeys to be investigated over pointing guns at St. Louis protest