Anatomy of a confrontation – St Louis MO

UPDATE – 3

A lengthy thread where Greg Doucette, aided by locals who have read zoning legislation and national historic place documentation, explains that while the houses in the subdivision and the subdivision is private, the roads and footpaths are not.

UPDATE – 2

  1. The McCloskeys have a record…of behaving litigiously and confrontationally.
  2. Local demonstrators held a demonstration against them outside the subdivision.
  3. A number of local people in the subdvision are not impressed by the McCloskeys’ behavior.

Conclusion – the principals of McCloskey Law have a track record of being bumptious asshats.

UPDATE – 1

  1. The gated community in question is, for many people in St Louis, a profound illustration of racial and economic divides in the city. It is less than 1 mile from some of the more deprived inner-city neighborhoods.
  2. The lawyer couple have given interviews to local media where they explain why they ended up waving guns all over the place on their front lawn. They have lawyered up already, expecting that they will be investigated by law enforcement, and they clearly intend to invoke the “castle doctrine” defense to any inquiries by law enforcement. (No surprise there). But you have to laugh at this quote from their lawyer’s prepared statement:

“My clients, as melanin-deficient human beings, are completely respectful of the message Black Lives Matter needs to get out, especially to whites,” said lawyer Albert Watkins.

ORIGINAL POSTING

Yesterday, during a street demonstration in St. Louis MO, a couple, who own an early 20th century mansion in central St. Louis, were videoed standing in front of the house waving firearms at demonstrators and shouting at them.

The identities of the house owners were very easy to determine. The house is one of a collection of turn of the century houses that are regarded as local museum pieces. Their house was actually built by a member of the Busch family.

The house owners, no matter which way you parse the video, looked ludicrous. They came steaming out of their house, barefoot, angrily shouting and waving a pistol (the woman) and what looked like an AR-15 (the man). Demonstrators shouted back at the couple. It all looked very edgy, with the potential for something dangerous and possibly fatal to occur.

This is how I initially responded to a snapshot on counter.social:

I was criticised for posting the slam on the couple without knowing all of the facts. So I went off to find out as many facts as I could about the dynamics that led to the confrontation.

The backstory to these events, as usual, is interesting. The demonstrators were in front of the couple’s house because they were trying to get to the house of the Mayor of St. Louis, Lyda Krewson, as part of an attempt to demonstrate against her. She published the names and addresses of citizens last week during a discussion about pushback on the local police. That was regarded by many people as an abuse of power, and a threat to the personal safety of those individuals.

The important fact is that the demonstrators were not interested in the couple’s house, or them personally. In fact, they probably had not even noticed the house, until the couple came charging out waving their firearms.

Missouri law allows for private streets as well as private gated subdivisions. Both the Mayor’s house and the house of the couple are part of the same gated subdivision, with private streets.

There are two gated entrances. As is normal, there are swing gates for motor vehicles, with a side gate for people walking in and out.

The demonstrators can be seen, on video, walking into the sub-division through the side gate of one of the entrances. The side gate did not appear to be locked, and there was no sign of any security personnel to prevent them from entering.

Once inside the subdivision, they were on private property without permission, and therefore trespassing.

There has been a lot of nonsense talked about legal sanctions against the couple, who are personal injury lawyers.

Claims have been made that they can be disciplined by the Missouri bar association. Somehow I do not see that happening. Bar associations almost never discipline members, and expulsions are very rare. Generally, the only way you can be expelled from a bar association is for embezzling clients’ money. Anything else likely will earn you a reprimand or at worst a token suspension. “Behaving like a posturing dick” does not a bar expulsion make.

The next question is whether they could be charged with brandishing a firearm in a threatening manner. Well, yes, there is a statute that covers that. HOWEVER…it is almost certainly overridden (in this case) by Missouri Statute 563.031. This is a classic “stand your ground” statute, and, like most statutes of this type, it is very defendant-friendly. In order to be found guilty of violating the statute, the prosecution has to prove that the homeowner had no logical basis for feeling threatened. I think that is unlikely in this context. Although the demonstrators were not targeting the couple’s house, they were on private property, and there were a number of them. A sympathetic jury will not be convicting the couple on that basis.

Personally, my belief is that the couple can use the incident to actually bolster their marketing credentials. Many personal injury lawyers like to boast of being “tough”, “mean”, and “relentless”. They cultivate an image of bellicose aggression towards The Big Guys, acting on behalf of The Little Guy. What better way to demonstrate your bona fides than by aggressively defending your home against marauding savages…er, demonstrators? I can hear a voice-over now. “We defended our home relentlessly against marauding bands of thugs. We bring the same attitude when we Fight For You”.

I stand by my original reaction. The couple were waving firearms around in a way that tells me that they either never attended a firearm safety course, or if they did they forgot everything about it. The man, at one point, was pointing the AR-15 directly at his wife. The video looked like he was holding her hostage, threatening to shoot her. They looked both ludicrous and stupid at the same time.

I once spent time talking with an ex-military guy about firearms, and something he said stuck with me. He said “these are devices designed to kill people. If you don’t want to kill somebody, you should not point one of these devices at them. Ever”.

Personally, If I was them, I would be asking the management of the subdivision “where the hell was our security”? A group of demonstrators were clearly able to march into the subdivision with no impediment. Given that the demonstration was being publicised on social media, the management company of the subdivision should have been taking precautions.

At a time where the concept of white privilege is finally being discussed seriously, they also looked like exemplars. Their house, both outside and inside, looks like a mini-Versailles. It is huge – 13,900 square feet in size, with tacky and pretentious artwork all over the interior. They then proceeded to look and act every bit like over-privileged, scared people.

Now, thanks to the merging of the internet and the age of phone video, their actions are immortalized, for good bad or ugly.

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