Jefferson County Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Wine said it’s too early to announce whether he’ll seek the death penalty against the white man facing murder charges in the shooting deaths of two black grocery store patrons.
Wine told reporters Wednesday that he first wants to talk to the families of the victims in last week’s shooting before deciding whether to pursue the death penalty against the suspect, Gregory Bush.
Wine said it’s “too early to talk to them about that weighty decision.” He said the families need time to grieve, and that he’ll talk to them at the “appropriate time.”
A grand jury indicted Bush on two counts of murder, one count of criminal attempted murder and two counts of first-degree wanton endangerment.
Bush was seen on surveillance video trying to enter a historically black church minutes before the shootings at the grocery store. Police say he was not able to enter the church.
Wine said Kentucky law does not allow for a separate hate crime charge in a case like this, but he personally believes these shootings fall under that category.
“Knowing all the other dangers we face, one of those should not be because I’m black or because I’m a woman or because I’m elderly or because I’m Jewish or because I’m Catholic that my life is at risk,” said Wine. “So that’s why hate crimes are so important and that designation, and I understand from my personal perception and most of the public’s, but under the law Kentucky does not allow that.”
Two Louisville-area state lawmakers filed a bill Wednesday that would include homicides as hate crimes in Kentucky. In a written statement, Mayor Greg Fischer applauded the move.
“As Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Wine said today, our state hate crimes law needs a lot of work, including strengthening the penalties for horrific crimes, such as homicides, which currently are not covered. I am pleased that some of our legislators are hearing that call. I look forward to working with Mr. Wine and the legislators to improve the hate crime law as we work for justice for crime victims.”
U.S. Attorney Russell M. Coleman issued a written statement late Wednesday afternoon that said the investigation continues into any violations of federal law, including potential civil rights violations such as hate crimes.
“The United States Attorney’s Office, DOJ Civil Rights Division, and the FBI have an open and active federal hate crimes investigation that will be thorough and prompt, aimed at collecting the evidence necessary to meet the standards required for charging under the federal hate crimes and related laws,” Coleman said.
“Experienced civil rights prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Civil Rights Division are assigned to this matter, including prosecutors who have charged and taken to trial hate crime murders. Those prosecutors and all of us are working to ensure that justice will be done in this case. In the interim, Mr. Bush remains detained and is no further threat to the public.”