(AP) — The white St. Louis couple who became internationally famous for standing guard with guns outside their mansion during a protest have pulled a gun before in defense of their property, according to an affidavit in an ongoing case.
As demonstrators marched near the Renaissance palazzo-style home of Mark and Patricia McCloskey on Sunday, video posted online showed him wielding a long-barreled gun and her with a small handgun. No shots were fired.
The protesters, estimated at about 500 people of diverse ethnicities, were passing the house on the way to the nearby home of Mayor Lyda Krewson. The protest was among dozens in St. Louis since George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis on May 25.
The McCloskeys — he’s 63 and she’s 61 — are both personal injury lawyers, and their home is on Portland Place, a private street in St. Louis’ well-to-do Central West End. Their attorney, Albert Watkins, said the couple were long-time civil rights advocates who supported the message of the Black Lives Matter movement. He said they grabbed their guns when two or three protesters — who were white — violently threatened the couple, and their property and that of their neighbors.
Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner said her office was working with police to investigate, saying she was alarmed because “peaceful protesters were met by guns and a violent assault.”
The McCloskeys and the trustees of Portland Place are involved in a three-year legal dispute over a small piece of property. The McCloskeys claim they own it, but the trustees say it belongs to the neighborhood.
A judge ruled on Monday against motions from both sides to end the case without a trial. Details about the legal case were first reported Thursday by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Mark McCloskey said in the affidavit that he and his wife purchased the home in 1988 and had taken several measures to improve the disputed piece of land.
The affidavit states they have “regularly prohibited all persons, including Portland Place residents, from crossing the Parcel including at least at one point, challenging a resident at gunpoint who refused to heed the McCloskeys’ warnings to stay off such property.”
Watkins said in an interview that the McCloskeys had “touched their weapons” just twice in their 32 years on Portland Place — during the incident in 1988 or 1989 cited in the affidavit, and on Sunday.
In the earlier incident, Watkins said, Patricia McCloskey heard a noise at night and saw someone.
“She looked down, had a gun and screamed for the person to stay off her property,” Watkins said. It turned out to be a neighbor cutting through on the way home from a nearby business district. Watkins said the neighbor was then, and is now, a friend of the couple.
Demonstrators on Sunday were angry at Krewson, a Democrat, for reading aloud the names and addresses of several residents who wrote letters calling for defunding the police force. The group of at least 500 people chanted, “Resign, Lyda! Take the cops with you!” Krewson’s home is just a few blocks from the McCloskeys’ home.
Police said the McCloskeys heard a loud commotion in the street and saw a large group of people break an iron gate marked with “No Trespassing” and “Private Street” signs. The video showed the protesters walking through the gate; it was unclear when it had been damaged.
A letter released Wednesday by more than three dozen neighbors of the couple condemned “the behavior of anyone who uses threats of violence, especially through the brandishing of firearms, to disrupt peaceful protest, whether it be in this neighborhood or anywhere in the United States.”