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A Washington man makes calls across the country threatening racial violence

A Washington state man has been arrested after allegedly calling a Buffalo, N.Y., grocery store and threatening to kill the Black people inside. This nearby Tops Grocery store in Buffalo was the scene of a deadly mass shooting in May.
Usman Khan
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AFP via Getty Images
A Washington state man has been arrested after allegedly calling a Buffalo, N.Y., grocery store and threatening to kill the Black people inside. This nearby Tops Grocery store in Buffalo was the scene of a deadly mass shooting in May.

A Washington state man has been arrested and charged after he allegedly called a Buffalo, N.Y., supermarket and threatened to kill Black people there and at a nearby store in the area, according to authorities.

Joey David George, 37, was arrested and charged with two counts of interstate threats after police say he made repeated calls to a Tops supermarket store on July 19 and 20, asking how many Black people were in the store.

In a federal criminal complaint obtained by NPR, George — who used the pseudonym "Peter"— said he would "make the news if he shot and killed all of the Black people, including all of the women, children and babies."

George asked the Tops store employee if the store was cleared out, telling the employee that there was a chance he was already in the store or "somewhere nearby," according to the complaint.

He then went on to say that if he didn't see anybody at the store, he would drive to the nearby Tops store on Jefferson Avenue, the complaint says. The Tops supermarket store on Jefferson Avenue was the site of a deadly mass shooting that killed 10 people in May.

In a second phone call, George allegedly ranted about a "race war," saying "this is what happens in a blue state," according to the complaint.

He later tried to block his phone number by using *67, but law enforcement officials say they still were able to trace the phone number back to George, identifying him as the person who made the call.

In addition to the calls to Buffalo, George also is being charged for calling and threatening a restaurant in San Bruno, Calif., in May 2022. In that call, George allegedly threatened to shoot Black and Hispanic customers dining in the restaurant if it didn't close in 20 minutes, according to the complaint.

The federal criminal complaint details other threatening calls allegedly made by George over the past year to businesses in Maryland, Connecticut and Washington state. In each instance George allegedly used racial slurs and threatened to shoot customers at the businesses because of "racial hatred."

"The Buffalo community is trying to heal from the horrific shooting at a Tops grocery store. I cannot imagine the type of fear such hate-fueled threats engendered in those just trying to go about their daily lives," U.S. Attorney Nick Brown said in a statement.

"We cannot tolerate this kind of hate in our community and will not sit by while people seek to terrorize others across our country," he added.

George is currently being held at the Federal Detention Center at SeaTac, Wash., pending further court hearings.

The calls came two months after the deadly mass shooting took place at the Buffalo, N.Y., Tops supermarket, and just days after that store officially reopened its doors to the community on July 15.

The Jefferson Avenue location, one of the few groceries serving its predominantly Black community, opened in July 2003.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jonathan Franklin is a digital reporter on the News desk covering general assignment and breaking national news.