Gregory Bush, a white man accused of killing two black shoppers at a Kroger grocery store in Jeffersontown, Ky., last month, was indicted on hate crimes and firearm charges by a federal grand jury on Thursday.
The 51-year-old is charged with “shooting and killing two victims because of their race and color; and for shooting at a third man because of his race and color,” according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney Russell Coleman in the Western District of Kentucky.
“There is no place for hate-fueled violence in our community or Commonwealth,” Coleman said in a statement. “Federal, state, and local law enforcement stand united to ensure that Kentuckians can shop, worship, or attend school without the specter of fear.”
The indictment alleges that Bush committed the killings “after substantial planning and premeditation.”
Investigators said Bush opened fire in the supermarket on Oct. 24, fatally shooting Maurice Stallard, 69, in the back of the head, then shooting him several more times. On his way out, Bush killed Vickie Lee Jones, 67, in the parking lot.
A white man who was in the same parking lot at the time of the shooting told reporters Bush walked by him and said, “Don’t shoot me. I won’t shoot you. Whites don’t shoot whites.”
Minutes before the ambush Bush was also captured on surveillance video trying to enter the First Baptist Church — a predominantly African-American congregation — during a service but locked doors prevented him from entering.
As NPR’s Laurel Walmsley reported, “Bush has a lengthy criminal record, including being convicted of domestic assault for punching his father in the face and lifting his mother by her neck.”
Bush is also charged with using and discharging a firearm during the commission of and in relation to the previously noted crimes of violence.
Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker called Bush’s alleged crimes “horrific.”
“We cannot and will not tolerate violence motivated by racism,” Whitaker said in a statement. “We will bring the full force of the law against these and any other alleged hate crimes against fellow Americans of any race,” he said.
If convicted, Bush could face life in prison or even execution. The Justice Department said it will decide at a later date whether it will pursue the death penalty.
Bush pleaded not guilty on Nov. 2 to two counts of murder, one count of attempted murder and two counts of wanton endangerment.