Jeffersontown, Ky. Kroger Shooting Being Investigated as Hate Crime

A witness says the shooter told him "whites don't shoot whites." A social media account featuring the name and photo of the suspect make references to struggle with paranoid schizophrenia.

click to enlarge Gregory Allen Bush
Gregory Allen Bush

UPDATE: Federal officials are investigating the shooting of two African Americans at a Kroger outside of Louisville as a hate crime, U.S. Attorney Russell Coleman said Oct. 26.

ORIGINAL STORY: Before he allegedly entered a Kroger store outside of Louisville, Ky. Oct. 24 and shot 69-year-old Maurice Stallard in the back of the head while Stallard was shopping with his grandson, security footage shows 51-year-old Gregory Alan Bush trying to gain access to the predominantly-black First Baptist Church of Jeffersontown nearby.

After exiting the Kroger, Bush shot another woman, 67-year-old Vickie Lee Jones, multiple times until she died.

Both Stallard and Jones were black, a fact that, along with Bush’s attempts to gain entry to the church and other evidence, has driven speculation that his grisly crime was racially motivated. But a dive into Bush’s background suggests mental illness may have also played a role.

A bystander who had a tense standoff with Bush in the parking lot after the shootings says the alleged gunman made a racial remark.

Ed Harrell was in the parking lot of the Kroger when the gunshots rang out. He grabbed his own revolver, he says, and crouched down next to his car. He then saw a man walking with a gun in his hand. He asked what was going on and the man, who is believed to be Bush, said he wouldn't shoot Harrell.

"Don’t shoot me," Harrell says the man told him. "I won't shoot you. Whites don’t shoot whites."

The man then entered a vehicle and drove off. Jeffersontown Police apprehended Bush a short time later.

The Louisville Courier-Journal reports that Stallard, Bush’s first victim, is the father of Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer's racial equity officer. It is unclear if Stallard's killing was targeted or random.

The owner of a Facebook account under the name Gregory Bush in the Louisville area has made reference to suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. That account features a profile picture that highly resembles a photo of the suspect released by police.

"I have worked most of my life and battled mental illness throughout my life," the account's profile states. "My paranoid-schizophrenia finally stopped me from working and now am on mental disability. I'm lucky I made it this far with all the trouble I've caused myself when I get off my medicine. I'm lucky my parents are in good health as it took 2 years too finally get my disabilty (sic). maybe one day I can work again. I'm hoping for the best."

The account follows a number of conservative sites, pro-Trump and Blue Lives Matter pages as well as multiple sites about interracial dating, the movie Black Panther and other content specifically about people of color. Most of the posts on the page are about comic books, University of Kentucky football and movies.

A Twitter account also featuring the same photo very much like the photo released by police follows a similar pattern, though it does make reference to "trouble" the poster has gotten into on the site that may have led to a suspension.

Court records show Bush had at least two run-ins with the law prior to the shootings. In one 2009 incident, he choked his elderly parents in the home he shared with them. In 2009, Bush also punched a family court deputy trying to subdue him after Bush yelled obscenities at his ex-wife. He was listed as a suicide risk following the scuffle. Bush was charged with menacing for another incident in 2003 in which he came up behind a 15-year-old in a movie theater restroom and grabbed her by the waist.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking into the killings — which could indicate consideration of possible hate crime charges.

"FBI Louisville is evaluating the evidence to determine if there were any violations of federal law," Supervisory Special Agent Timothy Beam said in a statement.

Bush is being held on $5 million bond. His next court appearance is Nov. 5.