KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Missouri Gov. Mike Parson launched an impassioned and unprompted defense of the St. Louis couple seen waving guns at Black Lives Matter protesters last month and later suggested that President Trump has taken an interest in the situation.
Mark and Patricia McCloskey were seen on video June 28 brandishing an AR-15 rifle and a handgun while confronting protesters who were marching through the Portland Place neighborhood, where the McCloskeys live.
After introducing a new grant program for small businesses but before taking questions, Parson said he wanted “to address the McCloskey situation in St. Louis.”
Police in St. Louis executed a search warrant at the McCloskey home Friday at the behest of St. Louis City Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s office. The couple’s lawyer said police seized an AR-15 from the home but that the handgun had been previously surrendered.
Parson, a former military police officer and county sheriff, helped expand the Castle Doctrine in Missouri — a stand-your-ground law that permits property owners to use any means, including deadly force, deemed necessary to protect themselves and their property when threatened — during his time as a legislator.
Parson said the McCloskeys were using the Castle Doctrine to protect their property from protesters, “which they had every right to do.”
He said police weren’t notified of the situation before reiterating “that couple had every right to protect their property,” Parson said.
He then slammed Gardner’s office, without directly naming her, for reportedly considering an indictment in the case.
“What they should not go through is a prosecutor attempting to take their constitutional rights away by filing charges against them for protecting their property,” Parson said.
He then said it was very difficult to remove an elected official — like Gardner — from office, calling it “one of the things we need to address in future sessions.”
It was at that point Parson invoked the White House.
“I just got off the phone with the president of the United States before I walked 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.”
Parson said Trump promised to do “everything he could within his powers to help with this situation and that he would be taking action to do that.”
“I’m thankful that he’s getting involved in the situation,” Parson said "... I’m thankful that he’s going to stand up for people and their legal rights.”
After opening up to questions, Parson acknowledged that “all I know is what I’ve heard” about the McCloskey case and that “I don’t know all the details of it,” but that “it’s quite evident they are standing on their property.”
“I think the president and the attorney general of the United States (William Barr) are going to take a look at it,” Parson said.
He later added, “The president doesn’t like what he’s seeing and the way these people are being treated. I know the attorney general was represented on that phone call today, so I think you’ll see some sort of actions. I think they’re going to look into things.”
Parson plans to have follow-up conversations with Trump after expressing his concern over the limited power the Missouri governor has to remove other elected officials, among other things.
“I don’t want to make it sound like he’s going to come in here and remove somebody from office, but I’m going to guarantee you the president’s focused on what’s happening here,” Parson said.
Parson has a press conference planned for Wednesday, when he is likely to announce details of a special session about violent crime in Missouri.
The governor declined to discuss specifics of the special session, but Democratic lawmakers have been calling for a special session on police reform since George Floyd’s death in late May sparked protests nationwide about policing and racism.
“My biggest concern right now for the state of Missouri is violent crime, homicides,” Parson said. “... We have to give the law enforcement officers the tools they need to fight violent crime. And, right now, more important than anything, we’ve got to stand up for these law enforcement officers that are dealing with violent crime.”
He blamed the protests for detracting from officers’ ability to focus on “the street crimes that are happening out there and these violent crime situations.”