Washington, Feb 24, 2017: An Indian engineer was assassinated and two others were injured after an American man yelling “get out of my country” opened fire on them in a crowded bar in Kansas City in an apparent incident of hate crime.
On Wednesday night, Srinivas Kuchibhotla (32), who was a worker at GPS-maker Garmin headquarters in Olathe, was killed while another Indian man and his colleague Alok Madasani were critically injured after a 51-year-old Navy veteran started shooting hurling racial slurs following an altercation.
A third person, an American man who has been identified as Ian Grillot tried to intervene. He was injured as well in the firing in Austins Bar and Grill in Olathe.
According to PTI reporsts, The shooter, identified as Adam Purinton, reportedly got into an argument with the victims in the terms of racism and related issues, and shouted “get out of my country”, “terrorist” before starting to shoot them.
Reportedly, the victims were provoked by the shooter into the argument, who kept interrogating them about their work and presence in his country, and how they are better than him.
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The police reports stated, Purinton left the bar after the disagreement and then came back with a gun and shot the three men while patrons in the bar were busy watching the University of Kansas-TCU basketball game on television.
The shooter was arrested on Thursday morning, five hours after the incident and has been charged with murder and attempted murder. The shooting incident being a hate crime has been denied by the authorities at a news conference. The local police have informed that they were working with the FBI to investigate the case.
Olathe Police Chief Steven Menke told reporters, “It was a tragic and senseless act of violence”. In New Delhi, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj expressed shock and grief over the mishap and said two Indian Embassy officials have rushed to Kansas to render all possible assistance.
In her tweet, Swaraj said, “I am shocked at the shooting incident in Kansas in which Srinivas Kuchibhotla has been killed. My heartfelt condolences to bereaved family. I have spoken to Indian Ambassador in US Mr Navtej Sarna. He informed me that two Indian Embassy officials have rushed to Kansas.”
External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup informed that Kuchibhotla and Madasani hailed from Hyderabad and Warangal, and were working at Garmin in Olathe (Kansas).
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“The Indian Embassy officials will meet the injured and facilitate in bringing the mortal remains of the deceased and will be in touch with local police officials to ascertain more details of the incident and monitor follow up action. They will also meet the community members in Kansas,” Swarup added.
According to Garmin, Kuchibhotla and Madasani worked in the aviation systems of the company. In an official statement, Garmin said, “We’re saddened that two Garmin associates were involved in last night’s (Wednesday night) incident, and we express our condolences to the family and friends of our co-workers involved. Garmin will have grievance counsellors on-site and available for its associates today and tomorrow.”
The FBI has joined forces with the local police authorities in the investigation of this case. “The FBI is investigating to determine if the shooting of Kuchibhotla, was a bias-motivated hate crime in violation of the victims’ civil rights,” stated Eric Jackson, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Kansas City office reporters, at a news conference.
The shooter who happens to be a navy veteran with inactive pilot license and air traffic controller certificate, told a bartender in Clinton, Missouri, where he was hiding after the shooting where two Middle Eastern persons were killed by him, local media reported.
The charges against him include premeditated first-degree murder and his bond has been set at USD 2 million. According to Kansas City Star, the shooter worked as an air traffic controller in Olathe. He has worked at the Federal Aviation Administration, but left FAA in 2000.
A GoFundMe page has been set up by the friends of the victim to help raise funds for sending his remains back to India.
The fund raising page says, “Srini was the kindest person you would meet, full of love, care and compassion for everyone. He never uttered a word of hatred, a simple gossip, or a careless comment. He was brilliant, well mannered and simply an outstanding human being. His wife Sunayana and his family are now faced with incredible grief and a multitude of expenses.”
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The shooting incident has taken place at a time when acts of bigotry and hate crimes have notably escalated during the recent months in America. It has sent shock-waves among the Indian community across the United States and Indian-Americans.
Jay Kansara, director of Government Relations at Hindu American Foundation said, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Kuchibhotla. We are also praying for a speedy recovery for the injured. We call upon the US Department of Justice and local law enforcement to investigate this murder as what it is, a hate crime. Anything less will be an injustice to the victims and their families.”
According to a report in The Kansas City Star, 24-year-old Grillot hid behind a table when Purinton started firing. He counted the gunshots and when he thought the gunman was out of bullets, he jumped up to stop him. But Purinton still had one round left, and he used it to shoot Grillot.
The bullet went through 24-year-old Grillot’s hand and into his chest. He said, “I’m just very grateful that one of the gentlemen is fine and alive. It’s terrible what happened to his friend. But I think he was watching over us last night.” Grillot also mentioned that he learned Madasani’s wife is five months pregnant and that he considers the Indian engineer his new best friend.
The sports bar where the terrible accident took place has been shut down with a sign on the door that reads it would remain closed indefinitely.
– prepared by Durba Mandal of NewsGram. Twitter: @dubumerang