LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Gregory Bush will spend the rest of his life in prison for shooting and killing two Black people at a Louisville Kroger in October 2018 after pleading guilty “but mentally ill” to murder in state court Tuesday.
He is still facing federal hate crime charges as prosecutors believe Bush, who is white, targeted Maurice Stallard and Vickie Jones because of their skin color. He is scheduled to plead guilty in U.S. District Court in February.
Bush said little during his plea in Jefferson Circuit Court to the two charges of murder, attempted murder and wanton endangerment, only agreeing with the judge that he was guilty and now thinking clearly and taking medication every day.
One of his attorneys, Angela Elleman, released a statement saying that on the day of the murders, Bush’s “schizophrenia was not medicated, so he was tortured by voices that threatened to kill him and his family.
"He acted out of his psychosis and his illness, while at the very same time his elderly parents were downtown seeking a mental inquest warrant to hospitalize him for everyone’s safety.”
Elleman said Bush’s actions that day "are not keeping with his character when medicated. Mr. Bush has agreed to spend the remainder of his life in prison where he can be safely treated and medicated.”
He also tried to enter the predominantly black First Baptist Church of Jeffersontown about 10 minutes before the Kroger shooting.
Jefferson Commonwealth's Attorney Tom Wine said in a statement that Jones and Stallard "were senselessly murdered because of the color of their skin. Our entire community and Commonwealth had suffered a loss because of racial enmity."
Family members of the victims in court on Tuesday repeatedly questioned Bush as to why he would target someone because of their skin color.
“I just don't understand why you selected anyone ... It can’t be just for the color of their skin,” said Charlotte Stallard, Maurice's wife. “To me it has to be more than that. You can’t hate someone that much for the color of their skin. You have ruined my life. I’d like to just have an idea why?”
Bush did not make a statement after his sentencing.
Kelly Watson, Stallard's daughter, said "that day replays in my head constantly."
She said her father was with her son, helping him, when he was shot.
"The man whose life you took, he gave and he loved everybody around him," Watson said. "He was there for everybody. ... And I hope that while you are sitting in jail, you are able to reconcile your own life and think about what you did. And I'm grateful you will never be able to hurt anyone else."
Jones’ sister said if she were alive today, she would wish no harm to Bush.
“You have taken a person who would have loved you if she had met you on the street,” said the woman, whose name was not audible in the remote court hearing. “I can’t understand why this happened. I pray for you because I don’t know how you look at yourself in the mirror."
Federal prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty, according to court documents, so Bush will live the rest of his life in prison without the chance for probation or parole.
In August, Bush was found to be competent to stand trial by Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Annie O’Connell.
O’Connell agreed with a psychiatrist who testified July 31 that with medication, Bush understands the charges and allegations against him as well as the possible consequences he faces, and he has the ability to work with his attorneys.
Bush, according to Dr. Timothy Allen, understands the charges against him and has even discussed evidence that could be used against him.
For example, part of the evidence in the case includes Bush allegedly telling a white man in the Kroger parking lot that "white people don’t shoot white people" and "he realized that sounded bad and would be received poorly and work against him," Allen testified.
When not on medication, according to Allen, Bush suffered from mania, paranoia, suspiciousness, hostility, hallucinations and delusional beliefs, including that he had his feet and "male member" removed, according to court records.
But when properly taking his medication, Bush attended college and was employed for several years.
Just before 3 p.m. on Oct. 24, 2018, police say Bush entered the Kroger and, for an unknown reason, pulled a gun from his waistband and shot Stallard, 69, in the back of the head, according to a reading of the plea. Bush then continued to shoot the man as he lay on the ground, according to police.
Bush then put his weapon away and left the store. Once outside the store, Bush again pulled out his gun and fired multiple times, killing Jones, 67, according to the plea. At that time, an armed citizen pulled out a weapon and exchanged fire with Bush. Bush, according to police, then started to fire his weapon wildly.
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