A St. Louis homeowner who pulled a gun on protesters walking on his private street said he was “in imminent fear they would run me over, kill me.”
“I was a person scared for my life, protecting my wife, my home, my hearth, my livelihood. I was a victim of a mob that came through the gate,” Mark McCloskey told CNN’s Chris Cuomo Tuesday.
He said it is “ridiculous” to consider him the face of opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement after the incident.
“I didn’t care what color they were. I didn’t care what their motivation was,” McCloskey said. “I was frightened. I was assaulted.”
Videos obtained by CNN show McCloskey, with a long rifle, and his wife, with a handgun, outside their St. Louis home around 7:30 p.m. Sunday. They are seen brandishing the weapons as demonstrators walked outside the home, protesting Mayor Lyda Krewson’s decision to publish the names and addresses of people in favor of police reform. Portland Place, the private street where McCloskey lives, is near Krewson’s home.
McCloskey told CNN the mayor’s house cannot be reached through his neighborhood and that hundreds of protesters broke through a private gate. He said the protesters threatened to kill him and his dogs and burn his house down.
In two eyewitness videos, it appears the McCloskeys and protesters exchange words, but it’s unclear what is said.
McCloskey said his actions and those of his wife were justified.
“My clients are completely behind and endorsed the message of BLM,” McCloskey’s attorney Albert S. Watkins said. “What they are not capable of doing is embracing the abject utilization of that noble message that we all need to hear over and over and over again as a license to rape, rob, pillage bowl over all of our rights.”
Details of the protests contested
McCloskey said he stopped seeing the gathering as a protest when he alleges the protesters broke through a wrought iron gate.
Daniel Shular, a local reporter who took one of the videos obtained by CNN and said he watched the entire roughly 10-minute long incident unfold, said a door next to the gate at Portland Place was unlocked and protesters used that to cut through the neighborhood.
In a video livestreamed on Facebook, the left gate door is held open by the first protesters that enter the private street. That video does not show how the door was first opened.
However, a second Facebook Live video taken later shows the right gate door bent and broken on the ground.
McCloskey exits the house 20 seconds later, and both videos show a heated, often profane back and forth between the couple and the protesters.
Once through the gate, (the McCloskeys) advised the group that they were “on a private street and trespassing and told them to leave,” according to police. The couple told police the group began yelling obscenities and threatened to harm them.
“When the victims observed multiple subjects who were armed, they then armed themselves and contacted police,” states the report.
Shular recounted to CNN that he did see some armed people at the protest but that “no one drew their guns on the people from the house.”
The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department told CNN it is investigating the incident. Circuit Attorney for the city Kimberly M. Gardner told CNN in a statement that she was alarmed by the events and her office is investigating.
“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,” she said in her statement. “Make no mistake: we will not tolerate the use of force against those exercising their First Amendment rights, and will use the full power of Missouri law to hold people accountable.”
What led up to the protests
The protesters passing through Portland Place were headed to Krewson’s house, bypassing nearby road closures that blocked access to the mayor’s home.
They were spurred by her reading the names and addresses of people asking for police reform. The names and home addresses she read were submitted as part of public comments to the St. Louis County Council.
Friday, the mayor apologized on Twitter, saying she didn’t mean to hurt anyone.
“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,” Krewson said in a tweet. “Never did I intend to harm anyone or cause distress. The update is removed and again, I apologize.”
CNN has reached out to the St. Louis mayor and protest organizers about the incident but has not yet received a response.