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Washington man pleads guilty to threatening to shoot Black people

The calls to stores in multiple states included ones to supermarkets in Buffalo a month after a gunman killed 10 people in a racist attack there.
Law enforcement officials patrol the scene of a mass shooting at Tops Friendly Market
Law enforcement officials patrol the scene of a mass shooting at Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo, N.Y., in May.Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images file

A Washington state man who called Buffalo, New York, grocery stores threatening to shoot Black people a month after a racist mass shooting pleaded guilty to a hate crime Monday, prosecutors said.

The calls made by Joey David George, 37, of Lynnwood, near Seattle, were made weeks after 10 people were killed in a racist attack on Black people at a Tops Friendly Market on May 14.

George called multiple grocery stores on June 19, June 20 and June 21 and threatened to shoot Black customers, the U.S. attorney’s office for Western Washington said in a statement. Three stores are mentioned in a plea agreement.

He also made similar threats in calls to a California restaurant in May and to a cannabis dispensary in Maryland in September 2021.

George pleaded guilty Monday to a count of interstate threats and a count of interference with a federally protected activity, which is a hate crime, prosecutors said.

The hate crime carries a maximum sentence of up to 10 years in prison, but prosecutors agreed to recommend a sentence no higher than the higher range of sentencing guidelines, according to court documents.

The guideline range was not spelled out in the document, and a judge ordered a pre-sentence investigation. George is due to be sentenced Dec. 16.

In the calls to the Buffalo stores, George said he was nearby and had assault rifles, and he threatened to shoot Black people, according to a plea agreement. In one of the calls, George said he could "pick people off" from a parking lot. George was in Washington state when he made the calls.

Two federal public defenders listed as representing George did not immediately reply to emailed requests for comment Monday evening.