Man pleads guilty in threats to shoot Black grocery patrons

SEATTLE (AP) — A suburban Seattle man accused of threatening to shoot Black customers at grocery stores in Buffalo, New York, and at businesses in other states, has pleaded guilty to making interstate threats and the hate crime of interference with a federally protected activity.

U.S. Attorney Nick Brown said Joey George of Lynnwood pleaded guilty Monday. As part of a plea agreement George, 37, admitted he made phone calls threatening to shoot Black customers at grocery stores in Buffalo, restaurants in California and Connecticut, and a marijuana dispensary in Maryland, Brown said.

He’s also agreed to pay restitution to the impacted businesses, at least one of which closed because of the threats.

According to the plea agreement, on July 19, 20, and 21 George called grocery stores in Buffalo and threatened to shoot Black people in the stores. George told the staff at the store to “take him seriously” and ordered the store to clear out the customers as he was “preparing to shoot all Black customers.” One store closed.

In May, a shooter killed 10 Black people and hurt several others at Tops Friendly Supermarket in Buffalo. A 19-year-old white man with ties to white supremacy in that case has pleaded not guilty to federal hate crime charges.

George did not call the same store but referenced it in threats, prosecutors said.

His other calls to businesses in other states also involved threats to Black people and in one case, Hispanic people, prosecutors said. He admitted his racial hate to local law enforcement who used caller ID to trace the call, Brown said.

George has been in custody since his arrest in July. He’s scheduled to be sentenced in December.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.