Lynnwood man sentenced for making racist threats to Buffalo grocery store mass shooting site

A Lynnwood man was sentenced to two years in prison and must pay $13,000 in restitution for making several threatening, racially-charged calls to businesses across the country, including the site where 10 Black shoppers and employees were targeted and gunned down. 

A criminal complaint filed says the man called a Tops grocery store location in Buffalo on July 19 and July 20. The location he called was close to the site of a mass shooting at the Tops on Jefferson Ave., when on May 14, a white gunman opened fire, killing 10 Black people inside the store. The 18-year-old gunman told investigators that the attack was racially motivated.

According to the criminal complaint, the Lynnwood man said he would "make the news if he shot and killed all of the Black people" and asked if the employee who answered the phone had cleared out the building.

He also told the employee that he would go to the Jefferson Ave. Tops, the site of the mass shooting, and shoot people there if he couldn't find anyone at the first location.

"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, said U.S. Attorney Nick Brown said at the time of George's arrest.  "We cannot tolerate this kind of hate in our community and will not sit by while people seek to terrorize others across our country." 

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According to the criminal complaint, George made similar racially-charged calls over the last 12 months to businesses in Maryland, Connecticut, California and Washington.

In addition to the calls to Buffalo, George admitted that in May 2022, he called a restaurant in San Bruno, California. In that call, he threatened to shoot Black and Hispanic patrons in the restaurant. He told law enforcement that he made the threat to strike fear in the Bay Area Black community.

Even before the Buffalo and California calls, George called a cannabis dispensary in Rockville, Maryland on Sept. 11, 2021 and used racial slurs as he threatened to shoot and kill Black people at the business. 

George admitted his racial hate to local law enforcement who used caller ID to trace the call. The dispensary shut down and hired extra security, causing a loss of over $50,000. On that same day, George also called a Denny’s restaurant in Enfield, Connecticut and threatened Black patrons at the restaurant.

"While Mr. George suffers from some mental health impairments, his conduct in this case was deliberate and motivated by racial hatred," said Brown. "He wanted people to feel the terror that they would be targeted because of the color of their skin. Mr. George used the tragedy of the Buffalo grocery store shooting to make his threats even more searing. We take these matters very seriously."

In addition to the two years in prison, George will pay $13,088 in restitution to impacted businesses and will be on three years of supervised release when he is done with his prison sentence.