Gregory Alan Bush attempted to get into a predominantly Black church just before successfully walking into Kroger in Jeffersontown, Ky., and executing two Black grandparents, and telling a white bystander armed with a revolver who confronted him, “Whites don’t shoot whites.”
The U.S. attorney for the Western District of Kentucky, Russell M. Coleman said, in a statement, “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.”
The shooting is now being investigated as a hate crime by the FBI and the Department of Justice.
“We have to get this all in line. The U.S. Attorney is reviewing the case, as are ATF and the FBI,” Jeffersontown mayor Bill Dieruf said. “A crime against race is something that we will not accept. If it’s a hate crime, it’s unacceptable to us that a crime would be committed against a race — certainly against any nationality or race is heinous.”
Under Kentucky law, hate crimes don’t apply to murder. They are not separate offenses, but add-ons to a sentence that could stop parole or probation consideration.
The case is scheduled to be heard in front of a grand jury on Wednesday, and charges may be added or subtracted, according to state prosecutor Thomas Wine. Murder already carries the full punishment of life in prison.
“If [hate crime law] doesn’t apply to a crime like murder, if it doesn’t allow for enhanced sentencing or a change in the carrying out of the sentence for someone who commits to violent murders, then maybe we need the statute to have a different affect,” Sam Marcosson, a professor at the University of Louisville’s School of Law said.
“It’s hard to escape the conclusion that he acted with hate toward these individuals because of their race,” Wine said.
Though Bush can’t be punished for a hate crime by the state of Kentucky, he can be punished by federal charges.
Kentucky state officials have said the shooting was a hate crime.
Jeffersontown Police Chief Seth Rogers said to the congregation at First Baptist Church on Sunday that the shooting was racially motivated and needed to bring about more conversations. He believed some don’t want to acknowledge “the elephant in the room.”
Mayor Dieruf said, “I want you all to realize that yes, we have a race problem. Yes, it is real,” Dieruf said. “It’s up to us to solve the problem of racism.”
Louisville mayoral candidate Angela Leet said on Sunday, “I think it’s important that we don’t politicize it, that we keep the human view of this. We need to denounce hatred in every form, from every human being.”
Mitch McConnell said to reporters on Monday that both Pittsburgh and Louisville shooters should get the death penalty. If the attacks “aren’t the definitions of hate crimes, I don’t know what a hate crime is,” he said.
Authorities removed computers and cellphones from the house where Bush lived with his parents. He remains in custody on $5 million bond and has a preliminary hearing next week.