Two days after a shooting at a grocery store in Kentucky where a white gunman shot and killed two black victims, police officials have refrained from categorizing the murders as a hate crime despite evidence that the shootings were racially motivated.
On Wednesday, 51-year-old Gregory Bush entered a Kroger grocery store in Louisville with a loaded gun. According to the arrest citation, Bush initially walked to the back of the store, pulled a gun from his waistband and shot Maurice Stallard, a black man, in the back of the head.
Stallard was a grandfather who was shopping for groceries with his 12-year-old grandson before being murdered.
After shooting Stallard, Bush exited the store. Once outside, Bush shot Vicki Lee Jones, another black customer, in the parking lot. Both victims died at the scene, Jeffersontown police chief Sam Rogers said late Wednesday afternoon.
Moments after shooting Jones, Bush came into contact with Ed Harrell, an armed white man, in the parking lot. According to Harrell, upon noticing his gun, Bush told him: “Don’t shoot me. I won’t shoot you. Whites don’t shoot whites.”
Immediately prior to going to the grocery store, video evidence showed Bush unsuccessfully trying to enter First Baptist Church of Jeffersontown, a predominantly black church.
Despite being aware of the racial comment that Bush made to Harrell, Rogers said at a news conference on Thursday that he “can’t speculate on motive at this time” and that authorities are “pursuing all avenues of the investigation.”
Given the racial profile of the two shooting victims, as well as the fact that Harrell’s life was spared, activists have argued that the shooting constituted a hate crime.
Over the past sixteen years since 9/11, far right-wing extremist violence has been on the rise in the U.S, according to data from New America.
Bush has a history of mental health problems, racism, violence and of having his guns taken from him, the Courier-Journal reported. In 2001, Bush’s ex-wife sought an emergency protective order against him after she said he threatened her and twice called her an “(N-word) bitch.”
A Facebook profile that appears to be Bush’s also features links to petitions to “Save Kentucky’s Civil War Monuments” and to a racist post seeking to reinstate a Knox County police officer who posted an “insensitive” photo of an unconscious black woman.
Bush appeared in court on Thursday for arraignment and his bond was set at $5 million. He is charged with two counts of murder and 10 counts of wanton endangerment.