Washington man pleads guilty to threatening to shoot Black people

A Washington state man who called Buffalo, New York, grocery stores threatening to shoot Black people one month after a racist mass shooting pleaded guilty to a hate crime Monday, prosecutors said.

The calls made by Joey David George, 37, of Lynwood near Seattle, were made weeks after 10 people were killed in a racist attack on Black people at a Tops Friendly Market on May 14.

George called multiple grocery stores on June 19, June 20 and June 21 and threatened to shoot Black customers, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington said in a statement. Three stores are mentioned in a plea agreement.

He had also made similar threats in calls to a California restaurant in May and to a cannabis dispensary in Maryland in September of 2021.

George pleaded guilty Monday to one count of interstate threats and one count of interference with a federally protected activity, which is a hate crime, prosecutors said.

The hate crime carries up to 10 years in prison, but prosecutors agreed to recommend a sentence no higher than the higher range of sentencing guidelines, according to court documents.

That guideline range was not spelled out in the document, and a judge ordered a pre-sentence investigation. George is due to be sentenced on Dec. 16.

In the calls to the Buffalo stores, George said that he was nearby and had assault rifles and he threatened to shoot Black people, according to a plea agreement. In one of the calls George said he could “pick people off” from a parking lot. George was in Washington state when he made the calls.

Emailed requests for comment to two federal public defenders listed as representing George were not immediately returned Monday evening.

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