CBS/AP October 26, 2018, 5:05 PM Kroger grocery store shooting investigated as possible hate crime
JEFFERSONTOWN, Ky. — A federal prosecutor says the shooting at a Kentucky grocery store that left two people dead is being investigated as a possible hate crime. Fifty-one-year-old Gregory Bush has been charged with murder and other crimes in the fatal shooting of two shoppers at a Kroger store on Wednesday.
Both victims were black. Bush is white.
U.S. Attorney Russell Coleman in Louisville said Friday that federal investigators are examining if there were any violations of federal law, "which includes potential civil rights violations such as hate crimes." The FBI is investigating alongside local police.
Coleman said in a prepared statement that the shootings "are not being taken lightly by the United States government."
Bush was recorded on surveillance video apparently trying to get inside a predominantly black church before the fatal grocery store rampage, police said.
After releasing a photo of the suspect, authorities received a tip from an employee of the city of Jeffersontown who said he thought he saw Gregory Bush outside the First Baptist church prior to Wednesday's shooting, city police chief Sam Rogers said. The video confirmed Bush's presence, Rogers said. The church is headed by a black pastor and has a large African-American membership.
Bush "appeared to try to gain access to the church," Rogers said.
The information came as news media outlets reported that Bush made a racial comment after the deadly shooting. Rogers said Thursday it was too soon, however, to say whether the shooting was racially motivated.
Ed Harrell was quoted by the Courier Journal of Louisville as saying he was waiting for his wife in the parking lot when he heard gunshots and grabbed his revolver. As he crouched down, he said he saw the gunman walk "nonchalantly" by with a gun by his side. Harrell said he called out to ask what was going on, and the gunman replied: "Don't shoot me. I won't shoot you. Whites don't shoot whites."
Rogers said police "are aware of that statement and are evaluating any factors that may come into play with" it.
"I can't speculate on motive at this time," the chief said at a news conference Thursday. "We are pursuing all avenues of the investigation no matter where that takes us or what it involves."
Chief Rogers said Bush apparently does have a history of mental illness, as news outlets have reported.
The local coroner's office identified the victims as Maurice Stallard, 69, and Vicki Lee Jones, 67. Stallard was the father of Kellie Watson, the chief racial equity officer for Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer.
Police said there didn't appear to be any connection between Bush and the victims, or any link between Bush and the Kroger store.
Stallard's 12-year-old grandson was shopping with him in the store when he was gunned down, Jeffersontown Mayor Bill Dieruf said Thursday. The boy was physically unharmed, but most certainly traumatized, the mayor said, adding, "He was there and cannot unsee what he has seen."