Man who threatened grocery stores weeks after Buffalo massacre pleads guilty to hate crime

In calls from the state of Washington, Joey David George claimed he was nearby Buffalo stores and threatened to shoot Black customers with his assault rifles.

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A Washington state man has pleaded guilty to a hate crime after he admitted to making threatening phone calls to several grocery stores just a few weeks after 10 people were shot and killed in a Buffalo, New York, grocery store massacre.

According to Yahoo News, Joey David George, 37, called numerous Buffalo grocery stores on June 19, 20, and 21 from the state of Washington and made threats. It was only a few weeks after a shooter murdered 10 people in a racist act against Black people at a Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo on May 14.

George pleaded guilty Monday to a single hate-crime charge of interference with a federally protected activity, along with one count of interstate threats.

Tops Buffalo supermarket -- Joey David George
Investigators stand outside during a moment of silence in May for the victims of a Buffalo supermarket shooting outside the Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo, New York. Joey David George has pleaded guilty to making threatening phone calls to several Buffalo grocery stores weeks after the mass shooting. (Photo: Joshua Bessex/AP, File)

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, during the calls, George claimed he was nearby and had assault rifles, threatening to shoot all the stores’ Black customers. One of them closed as he instructed workers to evacuate customers and advised them to “take him seriously.”

Yahoo reported that George warned he could “pick people off” from a parking lot in one of his calls.

Authorities claim it wasn’t his first time committing a hate crime. The Justice Department said George called a restaurant in California in May and a Maryland cannabis dispensary in September 2021 with nearly identical threats. 

He allegedly threatened to shoot Black and Hispanic diners during the call to the restaurant, acknowledging that he wanted to instill fear among the Bay Area’s Black community. Eight months earlier, on the anniversary of 9/11, George is alleged to have threatened to shoot and kill Black customers at the Rockville dispensary, using racial obscenities throughout the phone call.

He also reportedly threatened Black diners at a Denny’s in Enfield, Connecticut, on the same day.

Local law enforcement tracked the call to the dispensary to George’s phone, and he confessed his racial hatred. The business lost more than $50,000 because it had to close operations and hire more security. 

Yahoo reported that court documents state the maximum term for a hate crime is 10 years. The prosecution suggested a sentence no greater than the upper end of the guidelines. 

George’s sentencing will take place on Dec. 16.

According to the Justice Department, George — who has been in jail since his July 22 arrest — has agreed to make restitution to the affected businesses as part of his plea deal.

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