Missouri state lawmaker sparks backlash by tweeting 'looters deserve to be shot'

A Republican state representative in Missouri is facing backlash after he tweeted on Friday that “Looters deserve to be shot. … But not by the government.”

The tweet came amid massive protests raging across the country following the police-involved death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in Minneapolis.

“Looters deserve to be shot. But not by government. #2A” state Rep. Tony Lovasco (R) wrote on Friday afternoon, referring to the Second Amendment.

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Twitter has since taken down the tweet for violating its guidelines but screenshots began circulating on social media. 

His remarks came shortly after President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse panel approves 0.5B defense policy bill House panel votes against curtailing Insurrection Act powers after heated debate House panel votes to constrain Afghan drawdown, ask for assessment on 'incentives' to attack US troops MORE threatened to send in the military to stop “thugs” in Minneapolis amid protests and looting in the city following Floyd's death.

“When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” Trump warned, causing Twitter to flag the tweet for "glorifying violence."

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Lovasco immediately faced criticism for his remarks, according to Springfield News-Leader.

Missouri House Minority Leader Crystal Quade (D) said in a statement that while anyone who commits a crime should be prosecuted, “an elected official who advocates for extrajudicial murder is just as lawless as those he condemns and is unfit to hold public office.”

U.S. Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyConnecticut senators call for Subway to ban open carry of firearms Democrats optimistic about chances of winning Senate Gridlock mires chances of police reform deal MORE (D-Conn.) called the tweet “sickening,” and said the rhetoric is “what Trump has unleashed.”

One of Lovasco’s Democratic challengers Aaliyah Bailey wrote that “we’re going to move Missouri toward a brighter future.”

“One where we listen to the voice of people who are struggling rather than threaten to shoot them.”

Lovasco attempted to clarify his point in a follow-up tweet, saying people have “missed my point.”

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“1) Trump was wrong to threaten looters with being shot. 2) If you loot & a property owner shoots you*, I have no sympathy. 3) I'm not telling anyone to shoot anybody, just saying what I think people deserve.”

He also added that his original tweeted was “intended to be pithy, not profound.”

In an interview with the News-Leader, the lawmaker insisted that he was not encouraging vigilantes to hunt down looters.

“I’m just saying if people use deadly force to defend their property, the people on the other side of that shouldn’t be too surprised if that’s a result,” Lovasco said.

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He encouraged people to avoid try to “defuse a situation without using violence” and avoid using deadly force when possible.

“But in plenty of situations where someone is violently entering your property, possibly they’re there to do you harm, possibly they just want a TV, using force in those situations, yeah, it’s going to be on the table,” he added.

Minneapolis has been rattled by four days of violent protests following the death of Floyd. On Friday, one of the former officers involved in his fatal arrest was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.

Buildings and cars have been set on fire as protesters clash with law enforcement. Several local businesses and a Target were looted.

Demonstrations erupted into other cities across the country on Friday night amid mounting unrest. Footage showed violent gatherings in Atlanta, Brooklyn and Washington, D.C.

Lovasco condemned Floyd's killing and praised Chavin's arrest, having spent several days calling for criminal charges to be brought against the officer.

"It's impossible for people to trust law enforcement when obvious abuses of power are ignored, as is sadly often the case," Lovasco wrote on Tuesday.