By Quintez Brown —
Gregory Bush walked into the Kroger in Jeffersontown Oct. 24 with one thing on his mind: kill black people.
This is indisputable. It’s not up for discussion. Two people were killed at that store. Both were black.
Bush shot Maurice Stallard in the back of his head and continued to shoot him as he laid on the ground in front of his 12-year-old grandson. They were shopping for posters.
Bush, unmoved, walked out the Kroger, found another black person, Vickie Lee Jones, and gunned her down as well.
What stops a bad guy with a gun? Nothing if he’s white.
An armed bystander engaged Bush as he left the store, trying to figure out what the commotion was. According to bystanders, the two exchanged shots but no one was hit.
“Don’t shoot me. I won’t shoot you. Whites don’t shoot whites,” Bush told the man before fleeing the scene in a vehicle.
Police took him alive (of course) shortly after on Hurstbourne Parkway, near the store.
Police were able to find a long history of mental illness, racism and legal trouble from the man. In 2001, he allegedly called his black ex-wife the n-word and received a three-year ban from owning guns as a result of the domestic violence case.
Bush had another run-in with the law in 2009 when he was ordered to surrender his firearms and attend therapy after another domestic violence incident, this time involving his father.
Police found that Bush unsuccessfully tried to break into a predominantly black church in the area before he went to Kroger. Louisville, Kentucky was that close to seeing its own version of the Charleston Church Massacre, however, there is still hesitation to state the killers motive.
It would have been nice to see Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer call for a federal investigation into this hate crime, but in statements following the incident, he stressed the gun violence and mental health aspects of the issue.
“There are ways to make our country safer and still respect the rights of law-abiding gun owners. This idea that it’s all or nothing is a false choice and Americans are dying everyday because of it,” Fischer said in a Metro Hall press conference the day after the shooting.
Mental illness may have contributed to this violent act. Anyone that murders “random” people with no regard has to have some kind of mental problem. However, we rarely see this logic be applied to murderers and terrorists of other races.
Mental illness didn’t murder anyone. Gregory Alan Bush did, and the system helped. Those suffering from mental disorders are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators, according to MentalHealth.gov. Bush had a history of violent outbursts and trouble with the law. He needed help, and those around him knew it.
Guns didn’t murder anyone. Gregory Alan Bush did, and the system helped. There were numerous attempts to take guns away from Gregory Bush, including at least two temporary court orders banning him from owning or purchasing firearms.
Even if Bush is mentally unstable, he had enough sense of mind to not kill white people. So why did he not exercise the same restraint with black people at Kroger last Wednesday? Racism.
We focus solely on mental health and gun control, instead of focusing on all three simultaneously as intertwining issues that affect each other.
In a tweet sent out the day of the shooting, U of L Pan-African Studies Chair Ricky Jones said there is an obvious motive to the shooting that people just won’t admit.
“The Gregory Alan Bush shootings in KY were ‘race killings,’ plain & simple. There will now be attempts to characterize him as mentally unstable. He isn’t crazy. He’s the logical conclusion of hateful, supremacist, nativist rhetoric and attitudes,” Jones tweeted.
Can a white man not commit horrendous acts of terror in his right mind? Or would that go against the narrative that whiteness is logical and lawful?
U of L freshman Mahala King said she was heartbroken but not surprised by the incident.
“I assumed it was simply a violent act by a crazy individual,” King said.
Unfortunately, random public shootings have become commonplace in America. In the last five years, America has seen its deadliest mass shooting to date in Las Vegas, the deadliest high school shooting in Florida, and one of the deadliest hate crimes in South Carolina. Each incident saw a white man commit mass murder, only to be immediately diagnosed with a mental illness by the media.
After learning about the victims and Bush’s “white don’t shoot whites” quote, King became more upset about the issue.
“I am extremely angry as well as frightened for the lives of black Americans, not only because two people were killed in an act of hatred and violence, but also because major news outlets have so far not acknowledged even the possibility of this event being a hate crime,” King said.
Gregory Bush aimed for “black death” and unfortunately succeeded. Race-relations does not appear to be the main topic of discussion in wake of this event. This is dangerous.
We know it was a hate crime. An investigation won’t change the facts. What’s important is that we define it as exactly that.
Louisville’s Black Student Union will be having a candlelight vigil for the victims of the shooting Oct. 31.
Dion Copeland, the president of the organization, said the vigil should be a time of remembrance instead of protest.
“We must use this time honor and remember the innocent lives lost and not get so frustrated with the media’s portrayal of the murderer,” Copeland said.
Copeland said the issue is pressing, but the justice system will run its course.
“If the time comes where a protest is called for please know I will make it a priority to show our solidarity and strength,” Copeland said.
If our courts fail to deliver justice and treat this incident as a hate crime, things could get ugly in our community.
Louisville needs to come together in love and support. This shooting hit close to home to many of our students.
“I’ve been to that Kroger a few times. You never know what could happen sometimes,” freshman Quincy Robinson said.
It is time for us to realize that we don’t live in a peaceful, post-racial society. Racism is an issue. Gun violence is an issue. Mental illness is an issue. We need our political leaders to realize that all of those issues must be taken seriously at the same time. Common-sense policy and education are essential in these times.
Voting is the biggest step we can take moving forward. Gregory Bush is one of many terrorists who has been fueled by the hateful rhetoric that Jones previously mentioned. It’s up to us citizens of America, Kentucky, and Jefferson County to elect political leaders that stand up against hate, bigotry and racism, and call it out when they see it.
But it’s not just politicians. We must also take an active stand against racism and be able to call it out when it shows its ugly face.
Maurice Stallard and Vickie Lee Jones should be alive today. Just as many other Americans who have lost their life to senseless hateful violence. This must end.
Politicians: Do not be moderate against the hate and racism that continues to end and the lives of your constituents.
Martin Luther King Jr. said “To ignore evil is to become an accomplice to it.”
Call it what it is. This was a hate crime. It wasn’t our first. Sadly, it won’t be our last. But we’ve had enough of it.
Graphic by Shayla Kerr / The Louisville Cardinal