Why the suspect in the Kentucky Kroger shooting wasn’t charged with a hate crime

Posted at 9:18 PM, Oct 31, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-31 21:18:46-04

The suspect in a deadly shooting at a Kentucky grocery store was indicted on five counts Wednesday, including murder and attempted murder, according to an indictment.

Gregory Bush, a 51-year-old white man, is accused of fatally shooting two African-Americans inside the Kroger grocery store in Jeffersontown, and in the parking lot outside. CNN has reached out to a public defender for Bush and is waiting to hear back.

Authorities say the shootings appear to be racially motivated. But prosecutor Tom Wine said that because Kentucky’s hate crime statute does not include homicides, Bush was not charged with a hate crime in the deaths.

“A hate crime designation only occurs when the judge makes such a determination at sentencing. If the judge finds a hate crime designation is appropriate, it doesn’t add any additional time. The designation is only useful if the judge wishes to deny probation or the parole board wants to defer parole,” Wine said in a statement.

Bush could potentially face federal hate crime charges. Federal investigators are looking into potential civil rights violations, including hate crimes, said Russell M. Coleman, the US attorney for the Western District of Kentucky.

Hate crimes are considered more difficult to charge and prosecute than other criminal charges, largely because they require law enforcement to prove a specific motivation of bias.

Bush faces two counts of murder for the shooting deaths of Maurice Stallard, 69, and Vickie Jones, 67, according to the indictment. Police say Bush went into Kroger after he tried and failed to enter First Baptist Church, a predominantly black church nearby.

First Baptist Church administrator Billy Williams usually monitors the building’s security cameras and lets people in. But he wasn’t at his desk on Wednesday when cameras showed the suspect circling the building or standing at the entrance. Had he been there to greet the suspect, Williams does not think he would be alive today. And he believes his church and the victims were targeted because of the color of their skin.

“I don’t believe the individual came by our church to do us anything but harm,” he told CNN.

Bush is also charged with one count of attempted murder stemming from what authorities described as an exchange of gunfire with an armed civilian. The indictment identifies the armed civilian as Dominic Rozier. Bush is charged with two counts of wanton endangerment for firing shots in the directions of two more people, Kiera Rozier and an unidentified juvenile.

Jeffersontown Mayor Bill Dieruf said on Monday that the shooting is being investigated as a hate crime based on the circumstances, including the race of the victims and the defendant. Dieruf said investigators are looking into reports that Bush told a bystander before he was captured that “whites don’t shoot whites.”

Bush remains jailed on five million dollars bond. His next court appearance is Friday, he said.