Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Larger Tragedy at Predominantly Black Church Averted

A police chief has acknowledged that the killings of two black people at a Kroger grocery store were racially motivated, days after the FBI announced that it is investigating the shootings as a potential federal hate crime.

Jeffersontown Police Chief Sam Rogers told the congregation at First Baptist Church on Sunday that racism is “the elephant in the room” of this case.

Civil rights activists in Kentucky are calling for a hate crime prosecution of Gregory Bush, who is being held on state murder charges in last week’s shootings of two shoppers in the store outside Louisville. Both victims were black. Bush is white.

Police said Bush tried to break into First Baptist, a predominantly African-American church, shortly before the shooting. Bush “appeared to try to gain access to the church,” Rogers said. But services were over and the doors were locked.

Bush's ex-wife is African-American, and she has received protection orders against him after violent outbursts, including an incident in 2009 when she told police he called her racial epithets during a custody exchange of their son. They divorced in 2000.

Bush's criminal record shows he threatened his ex-wife and punched a deputy sheriff during a family court hearing years ago. He also was charged with assaulting his elderly parents in January 2009. A judge ordered him to comply with mental health treatment and prohibited Bush from possessing firearms for two years.

An arrest citation said Bush's parents were punched and choked, and they told police they were “terrified of (his) unpredictable behavior.”

Bush's ex-wife told authorities in a domestic violence petition in 2009 that Bush was “diagnosed paranoid” in 2003 but had stopped taking his medication.

“I am afraid for me and my son. I want him to stay away,” she wrote in the court document.