Man Who Killed 2 Black People at Kroger Gets Life Without Parole

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A white man who fatally shot two Black people at a Kroger supermarket in Jeffersontown, Ky., in 2018 in a racially-motivated attack was sentenced this week to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

At a court hearing on Tuesday, the gunman, Gregory Bush, pleaded guilty but mentally ill to the murders of Vickie Lee Jones and Maurice E. Stallard.

Mr. Bush, 53, also pleaded guilty to criminal attempted murder and wanton endangerment in connection with the Oct. 24, 2018, shooting in the Louisville suburb.

He is also expected to plead guilty to federal hate crime charges in connection with the shootings, a move that will allow him to avoid the death penalty, according to court documents.

Mr. Stallard, 69, an Air Force veteran, had been shopping with his 12-year-old grandson to buy materials for a school project when Mr. Bush shot him several times inside the Kroger, according to the police. Mr. Bush then went out to the parking lot and killed Ms. Jones, 67, who had retired from a Department of Veterans Affairs hospital and had been caring for her ailing mother.

Mr. Bush did not know either of the two victims, whose families spoke at his sentencing in Jefferson Circuit Court in Louisville.

“You can’t hate someone that much just for the color of their skin,” said Charlotte Stallard, the widow of Mr. Stallard. “You have ruined my life.”

Mr. Stallard’s daughter Kellie Watson, who had been the chief equity officer for the city of Louisville, also spoke at the hearing.

“Our life has changed forever,’’ she said, “and the man’s life that you took meant something.”

Shortly before the shooting, Mr. Bush tried unsuccessfully to enter First Baptist Church of Jeffersontown, a predominantly Black church, officials said.

Just after the shootings, the son of a witness told a local television station that his father had heard the gunman make a racist remark during the episode, though the police said they could not confirm that account.

Mr. Bush has a history of mental illness, according to the authorities. In 2019, he had been declared not competent to stand trial, but the determination was reversed after he underwent treatment.

In Kentucky, a person who pleads guilty but mentally ill is entitled to receive treatment and psychiatric care under the criminal statutes.

Angela Elleman, a lawyer for Mr. Bush, told the television station WDRB in a statement after the sentencing that his guilty plea hopefully shed light on Mr. Bush’s mental state at the time of the killings.

“On the day of this tragedy, Mr. Bush’s schizophrenia was not medicated, so he was tortured by voices that threatened to kill him and his family,” she said. “He acted out of his psychosis and his illness.”

The prosecutor in the case, Thomas B. Wine, said in a statement that state legislators should remember the victims as they take up hate crime legislation in Kentucky.

“Vickie Jones and Maurice Stallard were senselessly murdered because of the color of their skin,” Mr. Wine said. “Our entire community and commonwealth had suffered a loss because of racial enmity.”

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