Missouri Gov. Mike Parson was criticized on Tuesday for pardoning the St. Louis couple who pointed guns at protesters last year while declining to pardon a Black man who has served 40 years in prison for a crime prosecutors say he didn’t commit.
Parson pardoned Patricia and Mark McCloskey, after the couple pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges in June in connection with a June 2020 incident in which they drew guns on protesters walking to the home of then-St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson.
Videos of the incident sparked outrage and showed the McCloskeys, both in their 60s, hold a long rifle and a handgun as the protesters traveled to Krewson’s home to protest her decision to make public the names of people who supported police reform.
Mark McCloskey pleaded guilty in June to misdemeanor fourth-degree assault and was fined $750, and Patricia McCloskey pleaded guilty to misdemeanor harassment and was fined $2,000. The pair didn’t face the possibility of losing their firearms licenses because the charges were amended to misdemeanors after a grand jury indicted them on felony unlawful use of a weapon and evidence tampering in October.
Parson made the pardons on Friday after previously promising to do so, then announced the decision on Tuesday.
The couple claimed they felt threatened by the group of protesters and said they were trespassing on a private street. No shots were fired and no one was injured.
Special prosecutor Richard Callahan determined through an investigation that the protesters were peaceful.
“There was no evidence that any of them had a weapon and no one I interviewed realized they had ventured onto a private enclave,” Callahan said after the couple pleaded guilty.
Mark McCloskey, who became a hero to some after the incident, announced he would be running for a seat in the U.S. Senate.
“I’d do it again,” he said from the courthouse steps in downtown St. Louis. “Any time the mob approaches me, I’ll do what I can to put them in imminent threat of physical injury because that’s what kept them from destroying my house and my family.”
Meanwhile, Parson declined to pardon 62-year-old Kevin Strickland, a Black man who has served 43 years in person for a 1978 triple homicide in Kansas City, although prosecutors now say he didn’t commit the crimes.
The Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office, the same office that originally tried Strickland, now believes he is innocent after a key witness and the only victim to survive recanted her story. The Midwest Innocence Project and more than 12 lawmakers have called for Parson to pardon Strickland, but the governor said in June that pardoning the man is not a “priority.”
On social media, users responded to Parson’s decision. “Yet Kevin Strickland, who has spent most of his life incarcerated and is innocent, is not pardoned,” one user wrote.
‘Gov. Mike Parson pardons McCloskey but not Strickland because we live in a system of racism white supremacy,” another said.
“Even though the ACTUAL MURDERERS have said that Kevin Strickland –a 62-year-old Black man who’s spent two-thirds of his life in prison– wasn’t involved, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson decided to pardon Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the white gun-wielding circus act instead?? another asked.
The Missouri Attorney General’s office said in a July filing that it remains confident Strickland is guilty and won’t support the movement for him to be pardoned.