LOUISVILLE, KY. – A Kentucky man pleaded guilty today to federal hate crimes and firearm charges arising out of the racially motivated shootings of Black individuals at a grocery store. The federal plea was announced by Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Pamela S. Karlan of the Civil Rights Division; Acting U.S. Attorney Michael A. Bennett for the Western District of Kentucky; James Robert Brown, Jr., the Special Agent in Charge of the Louisville FBI; and R. Shawn Morrow the Special Agent in Charge of the Louisville ATF.
Gregory A. Bush, 53, of Louisville, Kentucky, pleaded guilty to federal hate crime and firearm charges arising out of his racially motivated murder of two Black patrons at a Kroger grocery store, and his attempted murder of a third, on Oct. 24, 2018, in Jeffersontown, Kentucky. Bush previously pleaded guilty-but-mentally-ill to state charges for murder, attempted murder, and wanton endangerment arising out of the shooting, and was sentenced to a life term in state prison.
During the plea hearing in federal court, Bush admitted that on Oct. 24, 2018, he drove to a Kroger grocery store in Jeffersontown, Kentucky, armed with a Smith & Wesson, model 411, .40-caliber pistol. In the store, Bush followed a Black man, who was shopping with his grandson, for the length of an aisle before pulling the gun from his waistband and shooting the victim in the back of the head. Bush then shot the victim several more times in the torso, killing him. Bush had no prior relationship with the victim and chose to shoot him because of the victim’s race. Bush then re-holstered his gun and calmly walked out of the store.
In the parking lot, Bush walked up to a Black woman, and shot her several times in the head and body, killing her. Bush had no prior relationship with this victim and chose to shoot her because of her race.
Seconds later, Bush encountered a Black man who was in lawful possession of a handgun. The third victim asked Bush what was going on, and Bush, without responding, began walking toward him with the gun drawn. The third victim fired at Bush, and Bush returned fire. After about a minute, Bush stopped shooting and walked away. Bush had no prior relationship with the third victim and chose to shoot at him because of his race. Bush next encountered a white man, who was legally armed with a firearm. Bush told him, “Don’t shoot me [and] I won’t shoot you. Whites don’t shoot whites.”
“Today’s guilty plea will ensure that a violent and disturbed man will never get another chance to target and terrorize the Black community,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Pamela S. Karlan for the Civil Rights Division. “It won’t bring back two pillars of the Louisville community, whose tragic and senseless deaths we mourn, but we hope it sends the message that the Department of Justice will work tirelessly to bring perpetrators of bias-motivated violence to justice.”
“The work of the Jeffersontown Police Department, FBI, and ATF in responding to and thoroughly investigating this tragic event is commendable,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Michael A. Bennett. “The outstanding effort of the federal prosecutors assigned to this case and the solid working relationship we have with our state counterparts in the Jefferson County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office were instrumental in bringing about this plea.”
“The senseless murder of two of our citizens because of their race has no place in our community. Hate cannot, and will not, win,” said FBI Louisville Special Agent in Charge Robert Brown. “Today’s guilty plea is just one example of the Department of Justice’s and the FBI’s commitment to protecting civil rights for all and vindicating the rights of violent crime victims.”
“In its mission to protect our nation, ATF stands committed to swiftly arresting those who create terror in our communities through violent acts of hate,” stated ATF Special Agent in Charge R. Shawn Morrow of the Louisville Field Division. “In this instance, two Louisville African Americans were gunned down while shopping for groceries – merely due to the color of their skin. ATF will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to seek justice for the victims and families of violent hate crimes and we will work tirelessly to enforce laws to prevent these tragedies.”
Bush faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Bush’s sentencing in federal court will be held on June 24, 2021.
This case was investigated by the FBI Louisville Office, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Louisville Field Division, and the Jeffersontown Police Department, and was prosecuted by Special Litigation Counsel Christopher J. Perras of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Gregory of the Western District of Kentucky.