A white man accused of killing two Black people at a Kroger outside of Louisville, Ky., has pleaded not guilty to charges under the federal hate crimes law that allows for the death penalty if convicted.
Gregory Bush, 51, pleaded not guilty on Monday in U.S. District Court when he was arraigned on three federal hate crime charges and three federal gun charges, The Louisville Courier Journal, reports. He was charged in the deaths of Maurice Stallar, 69, and Vickie Lee Jones, 67, he pled not guilty in October to the state’s hate crime charge, the report noted.
The charges fall under state and federal hate crimes because Bush had initially stopped at the First Baptist Church, which is predominantly Black, near the Kroger in Jeffersontown in suburban Louisville. He attempted to enter the church, but the doors were locked.
He then headed to the Kroger, where he walked past white shoppers and reportedly shot Stallard, who was shopping for poster board with his grandson. He then walked into the parking lot and shot Jones as she was loading groceries into her car, the report said.
Both Stallar and Jones were shot at close range. Bush was confronted by an armed bystander and told him to not to shoot him because “whites don’t shoot whites.”
“Federal, state and local law enforcement stand united to ensure that Kentuckians can shop, worship, or attend school without the specter of fear,” U.S. Attorney Russell Coleman said in a written statement after the hate crime charges were filed.
Bush’s son, Greg Bush II, said his father had been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, which is schizophrenia with a mood disorder, such as bipolar disorder. Former U.S. Attorney Kerry Harvey said a suspect’s mental illness could factor into the Department of Justice’s decision on whether to seek the death penalty.
Coleman declined to say if he has recommended seeking the death penalty. Federal prosecutors said Bush would remain in state custody in Louisville’s Metro Correction facility and Bush is set to appear in state court again later this month.