The son of the man who stands accused of murdering two African-Americans in cold blood recently offered a hint about his father’s possible defense for the hate crimes.
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Gregory Bush pleaded not guilty on Monday during his first appearance in a federal courtroom in Kentucky for a case in which he could face the death penalty, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported.
At the hearing, he was arraigned on three federal hate crime charges and three federal gun charges for the murders of Maurice Stallard, 69, and Vickie Lee Jones, 67, at a Kroger supermarket on Oct. 24.
Bush, 51, had attempted, but failed, to enter the predominantly Black First Baptist Church of Jeffersontown. He then went to a nearby Kroger where he reportedly shot and killed Stallard and Jones, apparently at random. Bush was taken into custody shortly after he fled the scene.
Bush’s son, Greg Bush II, said his father is mentally ill. He claimed that his dad was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, which is schizophrenia with a mood disorder. The senior Bush had irrational fears, said his son, Greg, whose mother is Bush’s African-American ex-wife.
For days after the shooting, Jeffersontown Police Chief Sam Rogers refused to “speculate” about Bush’s motives. Rogers hesitated to call the shootings a hate crime, even though eyewitness Ed Harrell, a white man who brandished his own gun after the shooting in the supermarket’s parking lot, said the gunman walked by him and said, “Don’t shoot me. I won’t shoot you. Whites don’t shoot whites.”
The murders came amid a series of high profile crimes involving white supremacists. Just two days before Bush killed his two victims, federal agents arrested a Florida man on Oct. 26 in connection to a series of mail bombs that were sent to prominent Democrats. On Oct. 27, another man was arrested for a mass shooting at a Pittsburgh Jewish synagogue.
The mental health defense could be supported at the trial by a neighbor, Barbara Waller, who has known Bush’s family for years. She said the gunman’s mother told her about a month before the shooting that her son believed he was being targeted. “Can’t you smell that? They’re trying to gas me,” she recalled Bush’s mother saying about her son.
A former federal prosecutor told the newspaper that a suspect’s mental health could impact the decision on whether to seek the death penalty or not.
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