Kroger Shooting Suspect Tried to Enter Black Church Before Killing 2 in Kentucky, Police Say

This article was originally published online in the New York Times.

Kroger Shooting Suspect Tried to Enter Black Church Before Killing 2, Police Say
New York Times
By Karen Zraick and Matt Stevens
October 25, 2018

A gunman who killed two people at a Kroger supermarket in Jeffersontown, Ky., on Wednesday tried to enter a predominantly black church minutes before the attack, the police said on Thursday.

The man, Gregory Bush, 51, of Louisville, was arraigned Thursday on two counts of murder and 10 counts of wanton endangerment. He was ordered held with bail set at $5 million. The victims, Vickie Lee Jones, 67, and Maurice E. Stallard, 69, were both black, while Mr. Bush is white.

The United States attorney for the Western district of Kentucky, Russell M. Coleman, said in a statement on Friday that his office was investigating the attack as a possible hate crime. The son of a witness said his father heard the gunman make a racist remark during the episode, though the police said they could not confirm that account.

The police said there was no indication that Mr. Bush knew either of the victims, nor did he have any known connection to the grocery store. Mr. Bush has a history of mental illness, Chief Sam Rogers of the Jeffersontown Police Department said at a news conference on Thursday. Court records show that he also had a long history of domestic violence charges, and had previously been barred from possessing a firearm.

Chief Rogers and church officials said that surveillance video had recorded Mr. Bush’s unsuccessful attempt to enter the nearby First Baptist Church of Jeffersontown shortly before the attack.

Billy Williams, the church administrator, said eight to 10 people were inside the church when Mr. Bush arrived after a midweek service. A church member in the parking lot grew alarmed when she saw him aggressively pulling on the historic church’s front doors. Mr. Bush drove away after less than 10 minutes.

“There were 70 people here at our weekly meeting service just an hour before he came by,” said Mr. Williams, who was among them. “I’m just thankful that all of our doors and security was in place.”

He added that they were praying for the families of the victims. Both had relatives who attended the church, which recently celebrated its 185th anniversary.

After leaving the church, the police said, Mr. Bush headed to the Kroger. They said he entered the store just before 3 p.m. and fired multiple rounds at Mr. Stallard. He then exited and fired at Ms. Jones in the parking lot, Chief Rogers said, striking her several times.

Mr. Bush was stopped by an armed bystander who shot at him in the parking lot, and whose name the police have not released. Mr. Bush tried to flee, but he was caught by police officers. Chief Rogers said Mr. Bush was taken into custody four minutes after the police received the first call for help. Both Mr. Stallard and Ms. Jones were declared dead at the scene.

Chief Rogers said there were conflicting reports about a second armed bystander in the supermarket, and he could not confirm the account of a local man who spoke to reporters on Wednesday. That man, Steve Zinninger, told a local TV station that his father had also confronted Mr. Bush with a firearm. Mr. Zinninger said the gunman told his father, “Whites don’t kill whites,” and moved on.

Court records detail Mr. Bush’s history of domestic violence incidents involving his parents and his ex-wife, who is black. She said that he had used a racist epithet against her.

In divorce papers filed in 2000, his ex-wife said that Mr. Bush had tried to kill himself while he was supposed to be watching their son, then 2 years old. The following year, she told the court she was “scared to death” of him after he punched her in the face.

In 2009, Mr. Bush’s father, William Bush, then 78 years old, told the police that his son had attacked him and his wife.

“He put his hands around my wife’s neck and picked her up by her neck and put her down. I tried to restrain him, he hit me in my left jaw and knocked me down,” the father said in court papers.

His father added that Mr. Bush carried a gun everywhere and had threatened to shoot both his parents in the head. “He is dangerous,” the father said. “He is paranoid. I want him to stay away.”

After the altercation with his parents, Mr. Bush was ordered to surrender his weapon to the authorities. He was barred from possessing a weapon after at least one other domestic incident, court papers show.

Chief Rogers said that officials from the F.B.I. and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were assisting in the investigation.

A Facebook page that appears to belong to Mr. Bush includes a lengthy description of his struggles with mental illness.

“My paranoid-schizophrenia finally stopped me from working and now am on mental disability,” it says. “I’m lucky I made it this far with all the trouble I’ve caused myself when I get off my medicine.”

Mr. Stallard was the father of Kellie Watson, who works as Louisville’s chief equity officer. In a statement, Mayor Greg Fischer of Louisville said he was “sick and heartbroken and angry” over what happened, and asked the public to respect the family’s privacy.

Ms. Jones’s nephew, Kevin Gunn, said she was “a good Christian woman and wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

In a phone interview, Mr. Gunn, 48, said his aunt had retired from the local veterans affairs hospital and was helping to care for an elderly family member. He called the shooting “senseless.”

“It seems like much more than mental illness,” he said. “It seems like a hate crime.”

“Yesterday I was sad,” Mr. Gunn said. “Today I’m angry.”1


  • 1 : Karen Zraick and Matt Stevens, Kroger Shooting Suspect Tried to Enter Black Church Before Killing 2, Police Say, New York Times, October 25, 2018, accessed September 29,2021. From The New York Times, October 25 © 2018 The New York Times. All rights reserved. Used by permission and protected by the Copyright Laws of the United States. The printing, copying, redistribution, or retransmission of this Content without express written permission is prohibited.

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