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Kentucky grocery store shooting being investigated as a hate crime

By Daniel Uria
Kentucky grocery store shooting being investigated as a hate crime
Police in Kentucky said 51-year-old Gregory Bush committed a hate crime when he shot a black man and a black woman at a Kroger grocery store last Wednesday. Photo courtesy Louisville Department of Corrections

Oct. 29 (UPI) -- The shooting of two black people at a Kentucky grocery store is being investigated as a hate crime, police said.

Jeffersontown Police Chief Sam Rogers said suspected gunman Gregory Bush, a 51-year-old white man, was motivated by race when he shot and killed Maurice Stallard, 69, and Vickie Jones, 67, Wednesday at a Kroger supermarket near Louisville, the Courier-Journal reported. Police said he also tried to enter the First Baptist Church of Jeffersontown, whose congregation is predominantly black, before the shooting.

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"I won't stand here and pretend that none of us know what could have happened if that evil man had gotten in the doors of this church," Rogers told the church's congregation on Sunday.

Rogers referred to the racial nature of the shooting as "the elephant in the room that some don't want to acknowledge in this case," noting the suspect told another man "whites don't kill whites" before he was arrested.

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Surveillance footage showed that Bush attempted to enter the church 10 minutes to 15 minutes before carrying out the shooting at the grocery store but was unable to get inside, CNN reported.

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"To think that an hour and a half earlier, we had 70 people in the church," church administrator Billy Williams said. "But by the time he came through, all doors were locked, and there were probably eight or 10 still in the building."

Bush is being held on $5 million bond after being charged with two counts of murder and 10 counts of wanton endangerment, but doesn't currently face any hate crime charges.

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Russell M. Coleman, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Kentucky, said federal investigators are "supporting local law enforcement and examining this matter from the perspective of federal criminal law, which includes potential civil rights violations such as hate crimes."

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who represents Kentucky, said he believes the grocery store shooting and the shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday in which 11 people were killed, are both hate crimes.

"We witnessed, all of us, two horrendous shootings this weekend. One in a synagogue in Pittsburgh and one in a Kroger's store in Louisville," he said. "If these aren't definitions of hate crimes, I don't know what a hate crime is. And I know that's a legal determination that's going to be made by others but that certainly is my opinion."

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