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Parson keeps promise to pardon Senate candidate McCloskey, who waved gun at protesters

·4 min read

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson has issued pardons to Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the St. Louis couple whose brandishing of guns at Black Lives Matter protesters in June 2020 catapulted them to conservative stardom and launched a bid for U.S. Senate.

The McCloskeys were among 12 pardons Parson issued last week. His office made the list of names public on Tuesday.

In May, Mark McCloskey entered the Republican primary for the Senate seat being vacated by Roy Blunt.

Parson promised soon after the incident that he would pardon the couple, who pointed a rifle and a pistol from their front lawn at several hundred protesters marching past their house on their way to the St. Louis mayor’s home. He has issued pardons on a roughly monthly basis since December to clear a backlog of about 3,000 cases that had accumulated from previous administrations.

The speed with which Parson pardoned the couple stands in contrast to the case of Kevin Strickland, a Kansas City man who has been serving four decades in prison for a 1978 triple homicide that Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said he did not commit.

In Strickland’s case, which received significant public outcry and calls for his exoneration and release, Parson said in June the circumstances didn’t “necessarily make it a priority to jump in front of the line.”

In a statement issued by his campaign, Mark McCloskey said he and his wife “faced political prosecution for having the audacity to defend our lives and property from an angry mob.”

“Today we are incredibly thankful that Governor Mike Parson righted this wrong and granted us pardons,” he said.

Despite the peaceful protest, he called on state lawmakers to strengthen the state’s “Castle Doctrine” law that allows people to use deadly force if they reasonably believe it is necessary to protect “against death, serious physical injury, or any forcible felony.”

Mark McCloskey pleaded guilty in June to misdemeanor fourth-degree assault in the incident and was fined $750, acknowledging to a judge his actions had endangered others. Patricia McCloskey pleaded guilty to second-degree misdemeanor harassment and was fined $2,000. The special prosecutor assigned to the case told KSDK Patricia McCloskey’s “conduct was much more aggressive.”

As they left the courthouse, Mark McCloskey told reporters he would “do it again,” according to the Associated Press.

Because the convictions were misdemeanors, neither had to give up their law licenses or the right to own guns. But as part of the plea they agreed to relinquish the weapons they waved.

Photographs of the couple pointing guns at the peaceful protesters set off an outcry. The couple had argued they were defending themselves from protesters whom they said threatened to harm them. They did not fire any shots and no one was injured. The couple was initially indicted by a grand jury in St. Louis Circuit Court in October on felony charges of unlawful use of a weapon and evidence tampering.

Since then, the couple has made the rounds as conservative celebrities, getting a nod of support from then-President Donald Trump, who called for Parson to intervene.

They appeared by video at the Republican National Convention, and with lawmakers in Jefferson City this year to rally for Second Amendment rights. It culminated in May with his announcement of a Senate campaign.

“Mark my words,” he said in his announcement video, calling the concept of systemic racism a lie. “The mob is coming for all of us.”

The couple last November sued a photojournalist over pictures of them waving the guns during the protest. But they have also embraced and recreated the image, at a St. Louis political rally in June.

In April, Mark McCloskey told a lesser-known version of the tale at a Jackson County Republican dinner in Blue Springs and said the couple received threats from protesters that they would return, “and they were going to have to kill us and burn down our house.”

He specifically named Democratic Missouri Rep. Cori Bush, who is an organizer of a group that holds police brutality protests in the St. Louis area. Organizers refuted McCloskey’s claims, and press accounts of the second protest showed it was peaceful.

Bush did not respond to a question about McCloskey’s pardon Tuesday evening as she concluded a five-day protest against evictions at the U.S. Capitol.

Bryan Lowry contributed reporting from McClatchy’s DC Bureau.

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