The Kentucky man who allegedly went on a shooting rampage in Jeffersontown this week, killing two black seniors, apparently targeted his victims based on their race, according to witness accounts emerging in the wake of the Wednesday shooting.
Gregory Bush, 51, was arrested minutes after the shooting at a Kroger supermarket, where he allegedly killed Vicky Lee Jones, 67, and Maurice Stallard, 69, according to local station WAVE. Bush, who is white, allegedly shot Stallard in the back of the head with a pistol in the back of the store before exiting into the parking lot and shooting Jones several times, according to a police report obtained by the station.
But the double murder didn’t really break through to national media until the next day, when the possible racial motivations became clearer.
Police announced at a Thursday press conference that Bush tried to enter a predominantly black church minutes before the attack, the New York Times reported. A witness also told WAVE that during a brief exchange in the Kroger parking lot, Bush told his father that “whites don’t kill whites.”
Local media dug through previous criminal complaints filed by Bush’s family members and ex-wife, who told police that he had a history of mental illness, violent incidents and making racist comments. In a 2009 complaint, Bush’s father told law enforcement that his son, in a fit of rage, said, “Tonight might be black death,” according to local station WDRB.
Here’s what we know about the incident so far.
Bush allegedly said he was specifically targeting black victims
Steve Zinninger told WAVE that his father, a licensed concealed carry holder, attempted to confront Bush with his own firearm outside the store. Bush allegedly responded by firing a fusillade of bullets.
But during a short verbal exchange, Bush told Zinninger’s father that “whites don’t kill whites.”
That comment prompted the Louisville Urban League to urge police to treat the murders as a hate crime.
“We believe it is happening but want to take nothing for granted. We are calling for an investigation into the murders in Jeffersontown last night,” the group said on Facebook. “Because of the FB posts of the alleged perpetrator and the comments he made to a man in the parking lot of the grocery store, we thought it necessary to clearly state our desire and support for a hate crime investigation.”
Jeffersontown police said that they’re investigating the motive for the shootings, the Times reported.
Bush tried to get into a black church before heading to Kroger
Just before heading to Kroger, Bush drove to the nearby First Baptist Church of Jeffersontown, a predominantly black house of worship, and forcefully tried to enter the building, police said.
Billy Williams, the church administrator, told the Times that a church member grew concerned when she saw him pulling on the locked front doors, trying to get inside. Surveillance video recorded Bush’s efforts to do so, Williams said.
“There were 70 people here at our weekly meeting service just an hour before he came by,” Williams told the Times, saying fewer than 10 were still in the building by the time Bush showed up. “I’m just thankful that all of our doors and security was in place.”
In the summer of 2015, white supremacist Dylann Roof went on a shooting rampage inside a historically black church in Columbia, South Carolina, killing nine black parishioners.
Bush spoke publicly about his serious mental health issues
In a Facebook account that appeared to belong to Bush, the about section reads: “I have worked most of my life and battled mental illness throughout my life. 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.”
In a linked Twitter account under the same name, Bush refers to people wanting him “dead,” saying they “high jack my frequency.”
— Gregory Bush (@GregoryAlanBush) June 21, 2018
Records obtained by WDRB show that Bush was hospitalized at least twice out of concern for his mental health, and that his ex-wife and parents said he was physically abusive, “unpredictable” and “paranoid.” A 2009 domestic violence conviction should have prevented him from legally possessing a firearm, WDRB reported.
Judge calls him “danger” to community
At his Thursday arraignment, a judge called Bush a “danger” to the community, forbidding him to possess firearms or have contact with the victims’ families, the Times reported. Bush was charged with two counts of murder and 10 of wanton endangerment. His bail was set at $5 million, according to the newspaper.
Bush is next due in court for a preliminary hearing on Nov. 5.
The victims were Jeffersontown natives, grandparents
Both victims grew up in Jeffersontown, where they lived throughout their adult lives.
Stallard was the father of the town’s chief equity officer, Kellie Watson, according to the Courier-Journal. He was shopping for poster board with his 12-year-old grandson when he was killed, the newspaper reported.
Jones retired from her position as an office administrator at the Veterans Affairs hospital, and had two sons and multiple grandchildren, according to the newspaper. Her nephew, Kevin Gunn, told the Courier-Journal that Jones’ husband died of cancer in 2010, and that she was a loyal attendee of services at the Church of the Living God.
- -Hiring More Journalists
- -Providing free memberships to those who cannot afford them
- -Supporting independent, non-corporate journalism