Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the white St. Louis couple charged in July with brandishing weapons at protesters who marched through their gated community, have been indicted by a grand jury, the Associated Press has reported.
Their lawyer, Joel Schwartz, told NPR he learned of the indictment from a variety of reports but has not yet been contacted by the prosecutor in the case, nor have the legal documents been filed in the court database.
"I don't have independent confirmation, but I've been told they've been charged with exhibiting a firearm and tampering with evidence," Schwartz said.
He could not expound on the charges of tampering with evidence, saying, "I can only assume they're alleging that they tampered with the firearm."
Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner's office did not immediately respond to NPR's requests for comment.
The charges stem from a confrontation between the McCloskeys, a white couple who are both personal injury attorneys and have a history of litigation with their neighbors, and a group of mostly Black protesters on June 28. The demonstrators entered the wealthy enclave en route to the home of St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, who lives nearby.
But before they reached their destination, the nonviolent group was met by the McCloskeys who stood outside their mansion waving firearms and menacing the group. Mark McCloskey carried an AR-15 while Patricia McCloskey, stood hand-on-hip, brandishing a semi-automatic handgun.
The incident was captured on video and has drawn ire from Black Lives Matter supporters and praise from Second Amendment activists. It has also stoked the heated debate over the rights and protections of protesters.
Circuit Attorney Gardner filed charges against the pair for unlawful use of a weapon — a class E felony — in July. But Tuesday's grand jury indictment reportedly adds a new charge of tampering with evidence against both of the McCloskeys.
Nine protesters — out of an estimated 300 who participated in the demonstration — were issued trespassing summonses for marching onto a private property last month. But the City Counselor's office decided not to pursue the charges against the alleged trespassers.
On Tuesday Schwartz said he is baffled by the additional felony charges against his clients and contends they are protected under Missouri law as well as the Second Amendment.
The McCloskeyS, who have gained national attention from the standoff, have maintained they feared for their lives and acted to protect their property. They also said the protesters illegally entered the private community by tearing down a gate and ignoring "No Trespassing" signs.
The couple were in court early Tuesday for a status hearing before the grand jury rendered the decision. The hearing was postponed until next week, at which time, Schwartz said, the McCloskeys will enter a not-guilty plea.
Standing outside the courthouse, Mark McCloskey denounced the grand jury indictment and accused the government of persecution.
"What you are witnessing here is just an opportunity for the government, the leftist, democrat government of the City of St. Louis to persecute us for doing no more than exercising our Second Amendment rights," McCloskey said after learning of the charges against him and his wife, local news station KMOV4 reported.
He continued: "They broke down our gate, they trespassed on our property. Not a single one of those people are now charged with anything. ... We're charged with felonies that could cost us four years of our lives and our law license."