A white Kentucky man who gunned down two Black people at a grocery store in October 2018 pleaded guilty to federal hate crime and firearm charges.
Federal prosecutors said Thursday that Gregory Bush, 53, of Louisville, targeted the victims because of their race.
The shootings happened just before 3 p.m. Oct. 24, 2018, at a Kroger store in Jeffersontown.
Bush said during his plea hearing that he drove to the store armed with a Smith & Wesson pistol, according to a Department of Justice press release. After walking inside, he followed a Black man who was shopping with his grandson.
Prosecutors said Bush shot the man, Maurice Stallard, 69, in the back of the head and then shot him several more times in the torso, killing him. Bush then re-holstered his gun and "calmly walked out the store," according to the press release.
In the parking lot, Bush walked up to Vickie Lee Jones, 67, and shot her several times in the head and body. Jones, a Black woman, died at the scene.
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Federal prosecutors said that Bush did not know the two victims and chose to shoot them because of their race.
Seconds after Jones was killed, a Black man approached Bush and asked what was going on. Without responding, Bush walked toward the man with his gun drawn. The man, who was in lawful possession of a handgun, fired at Bush.
Prosecutors said that Bush shot at the man and then walked away. Authorities previously said that the man, identified by local media outlets as Dominiic Rozier, was not struck.
"Bush had no prior relationship with the third victim and chose to shoot at him because of his race," the DOJ said.
Rozier told NBC affiliate WAVE in an October 2018 interview that he fired at Bush to protect his wife.
"I could have died," he said. "She could have died. A lot more people could have died.”
According to prosecutors, a white man, who was legally armed, also encountered Bush in the store's parking lot. Bush told that man not to shoot him and said that "whites don't shoot whites," the press release states.
“Today’s guilty plea will ensure that a violent and disturbed man will never get another chance to target and terrorize the Black community,” Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Pamela S. Karlan said in a statement.
“It won’t bring back two pillars of the Louisville community, whose tragic and senseless deaths we mourn, but we hope it sends the message that the Justice Department will work tirelessly to bring perpetrators of bias-motivated violence to justice.”
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Jeffersontown police had previously said that Bush tried to enter the First Baptist Church of Jeffersontown about 15 minutes before the shootings at Kroger. He could not get into the predominately Black church because the doors were locked.
Authorities said they could not confirm if Bush was armed at the time he tried to get inside the church.
Bush faces a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. He is scheduled to be sentenced in federal court on June 24, 2021.
He is already serving a life sentence in state prison after pleading guilty but mentally ill to local charges of murder, attempted murder, and wanton endangerment. His attorney could not be reached on Friday.