Prosecutors on Monday said that a Washington state man accused of threatening to shoot Black people in phone calls that he made to grocery stores has pleaded guilty to hate crime. According to NBC News, the multiple grocery stores that 37-year-old Joey David George targeted included some located in Buffalo, New York.
And the threatening calls came a month after Payton Gendron shot and killed ten Black people during a racially motivated attack at a Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo, New York. In a statement, the U.S. attorney’s office for Western Washington said that George threatened to shoot Black customers in calls that he made to several grocery stores on June 19, June 20, and June 21.
A plea agreement states that George called the Buffalo stores and claimed he was close by and armed with assault rifles. He also threatened to open fire on Black people. George, in one of such calls, claimed that he was in a position to “pick people off” from a parking area. The accused man made those calls from Washington state.
Besides contacting the grocery stores, George also made threatening calls to a restaurant in California and a Maryland cannabis dispensary. The accused man called those establishments in May and September 2021 respectively, NBC News reported. Prosecutors also said he hurled racial slurs in the call that he made to the dispensary.
“The dispensary shut down and hired extra security, causing a loss of over $50,000,” the statement said. “On that same day George also called a Denny’s restaurant in Enfield, Connecticut and threatened Black patrons at the restaurant.”
Prosecutors said George has since pleaded guilty to making interstate threats and interference with a Federally Protected Activity. The latter is classified as a hate crime. George faces up to five years in prison for making interstate threats. He also faces up to 10 years in prison for the hate crime.
“Prosecutors have agreed to limit their sentencing recommendation to the high end of the federal sentencing guidelines range,” the statement said. “Judge Martinez is not bound by prosecutors’ recommendation and can impose any sentence up to the 10-year statutory maximum after considering the sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.” George’s sentencing date has been set for December 16.