LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Maurice Stallard dropped by the Kroger on Taylorsville Road with his grandson to buy poster board for the 12-year-old boy.
Vicki Jones stopped in on the way to take food to her elderly mother.
Both of their lives were “tragically cut short by hatred and bigotry,” U.S. District Court Judge Claria Boom said in court Thursday as she sentenced Gregory Bush, the man who shot and killed Jones and Stallard, to life in prison.
“Two innocent members of our community are gone for no reason, other than the color of their skin,” Boom said in wrapping up the court cases from the October 24, 2018 shootings at the Kroger in the suburban city of Jeffersontown. “They were just going to the grocery store.”
Bush, who is white, apologized to more than a dozen members of Stallard and Jones’ families, telling them he was off his medication before the shootings and “bombarded by mental illness,” hearing voices threatening to kill his son.
“I’ve got my whole life to think about (the shootings),” he said during his sentencing. People in prison are telling “me they are going to kill me, and I don’t blame them. If I die in prison, maybe that's what I need to do. … I made a mistake that has ruined the lives of people who I didn’t even know."
His apology was not well-received, with Jones’ nephew, Kevin Gunn, walking out and other family members audibly rejecting Bush’s arguments that his mental illness caused him to target Black people that day.
“The Christian in me says I’m supposed to forgive you,” Gunn told Bush earlier in the hearing. “The other mind says you are a rabid dog. … Rabid dogs should be put down.”
Gunn said he would pray for Bush “but I hope they lock you in the deepest, darkest cell.”
Charlotte Stallard, Maurice Stallard’s widow, said her husband's death has “destroyed our lives.”
“I can’t emphasize how hard it is to live without him,” she told Bush.
While Bush has indicated at times that the shootings were not motivated by race – he said on Thursday that he had been married to a Black woman -- Bush also tried to enter the predominantly Black First Baptist Church of Jeffersontown about 10 minutes before the Kroger shooting.
He also pleaded guilty to federal hate crimes charges in March.
One of Stallard’s family members told Bush “that was hate,” not mental illness, and “I hope your soul burns in hell.”
The judge ruled Bush should be sentenced to life in prison plus 10 years and pay restitution of about $23,000 for the funeral costs of the victims.
Bush has already been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility for probation or parole after he pleaded guilty "but mentally ill" to two charges of murder, attempted murder and wanton endangerment in state court in December.
Prosecutors agreed not to pursue the death penalty.
When asked by the federal judge in March if he killed Stallard and Jones and shot at another person because of their race, Bush said, "voices were telling me to do this. I don't know if it's because of it."
But when pressed by the judge, Bush eventually admitted he targeted them because of their race.
Just before 3 p.m. on Oct. 24, 2018, Bush entered the Kroger and pulled a gun from his waistband and shot Stallard, 69, in the back of the head. 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. At that time, an armed Black citizen pulled out a weapon and exchanged fire with Bush.
The judge on Thursday said the citizen's actions likely saved lives.
Bush, who was also convicted of gun charges, said he is on medication for being bipolar and having a psycho-affective disorder.
“I didn’t mean for this to happen,” he said Thursday. “Mental illness drove me to madness. I’m so sorry this happened.
But Judge Boom noted that Bush has a violent past, coinciding with him not taking his medication, and “sadly we must protect the community from you.”
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