Deadly Kansas shooting: A senseless crime and a friend lost
The body of an Indian tech worker shot dead in a Kansas bar last week was due to be repatriated to his family in Hyderabad Monday as investigators sought to determine if it was a hate crime.
His death has made headlines in India and prompted Indian communities in the US to question the relative safety of the country.
Srinivas Kuchibhotla died when suspect, named by police as 52-year-old Adam Purinton, walked into Austins Bar and Grill in the Kansas City suburb of Olathe and opened fire on Wednesday evening.
Kuchibhotla’s friend, Alok Madasani, and Ian Grillot, a bar-goer who tried to intervene in the attack, were also shot, but survived.
Witnesses told local media they heard the suspect yell, “Get out of my country.” Police have not corroborated the statements but the FBI has joined the investigation to determine whether the shootings are hate crimes.
The incident started after the suspect became agitated at the bar, Grillot said. He said he defended the two Indian men and asked the suspect to leave.
Witness Jeremy Luby said the man stumbled around the parking lot for a while, then got in a pickup and left.
“I thought all the trouble was over with, and we were all just sitting and watching the game minding our own business,” Grillot told CNN affiliate KMBC-TV. But the suspect returned with a firearm and started shooting.
Grillot was shot in the hand and chest as he tried to stop the gunman.
Purinton has been charged with one count of premeditated first-degree murder and two counts of attempted premeditated first-degree murder.
Questions about the future
Somil Chandwani, a close friend and cricket teammate of Kuchibhotla, said that the Indian community in Kansas remained shocked and are “concerned about their future.”
He said of news of an attack on a fellow Indian in the Kansas City suburbs was “one of the rarest incidences in this part of the world,” and that his neighbors and colleagues have been sympathetic and supportive.
“I’ve never (experienced) anti-immigrant sentiment; I’ve always felt welcomed for last 11 years in Kansas, and I’m proud that I live in the best possible neighborhood,” the data scientist told CNN.
But he feels that many in the community are beginning to question their future in the neighborhood.
“People have dreamed of settling down in Johnston County, they have the best schooling district,” he said. “Now are concerned about raising their kids here. People aren’t jumping to conclusions but (are) wanting to be on their guard.”
On Sunday, Kansans, native-born and those who have settled in the state, stood with heads bowed in a vigil for the victim, according to local media. Madasani spoke at the event, sponsored by the India Association of Kansas City at the Ball Conference Center in Olathe.
“I wish it was a dream,” he said, according to the Kansas City Star.
“What happened that night was a senseless crime and that took away my best friend.”
Madasani and Kuchibhotla, originally from India, worked at Garmin, the technology company that makes GPS devices.
Sunayana Dumala, Kuchibhotla’s widow, said she was constantly worried about violence against foreigners in the United States, but her husband had assured her everything would be OK.
“I told him many times, ‘Should we think about going back? Should we think about going to a different country?’ He said, ‘No,’ ” she told CNN affiliate KCTV-TV.
Indian media: Questions over reaction to killing
An opinion piece in the Hindustan Times, a leading Indian newspaper, questioned the disparity between the coverage of killings of white victims and those of other races, and asked why the incident was not a bigger media story in the US.
It compared the lack of US interest in the story to the massive attention the case has received in India, saying that Grillot was “a hero in India, and possibly a household name.”
The piece also questioned why US President Donald Trump has remained silent on the attack.
“Questions are being raised about the lack of attention it has received from the White House, especially in comparison to similar circumstances in the past,” the piece states.
The sentiment was shared in the US. Kumail Nanjani, a Pakistani-American comic, tweeted: “The President could say “Don’t shoot innocent brown people. It’s wrong.” And he would save lives. But he won’t. & that doesn’t surprise us.”
“Any loss of life is tragic,” press secretary Sean Spicer, was quoted as saying in the newspaper.
“But I’m not going to get into, like, that kind of — to suggest that there’s any correlation (to Trump’s rhetoric on immigration) I think is a bit absurd.”
Outpouring of support
GoFundMe pages started for the men have exceeded a total of $1 million in donations.
One page, set up by Kuchibhotla’s friends and family has more than quadrupled its $150,000 goal, with over $640,000 so far donated, while one set up for Grillot’s medical expenses has passed $400,000.
“I’m so sorry,” one donor wrote. “I don’t even know what America is anymore. There is nothing to say. I’m just sorry.”
Suspect told bartender he was on the run
A few hours after he allegedly shot the three, Purinton walked into an Applebee’s in neighboring Missouri and opened up to the bartender, according to 911 calls.
The suspect told the bartender that he had shot two people in Olathe, Kansas, and was looking for a place to hide, the bartender told dispatchers.
“So I’m a bartender at Applebee’s … and I had this guy come into my bar and he told me he’d done something really bad and he was on the run from the police,” the bartender said in 911 calls released by CNN affiliate KSHB.
“He said that he shot and killed two … people in Olathe. And I looked it up on the news, there are these shootings like three hours ago.”