Hate Crime Is Feared as 2 Indian Engineers Are Shot in
FEBRUARY 24, 2017
OLATHE, Kan. — “The Jameson guys,” as some on the staff at Austins Bar and Grill knew the pair, were on the patio on Wednesday evening. It was hardly unusual: Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani, two immigrants from India, often enjoyed an after-work whiskey at the bar they had adopted as a hangout.
Adam W. Purinton was also there, tossing ethnic slurs at the two men and suggesting they did not belong in the United States, other customers said. Patrons complained, and Mr. Purinton was thrown out.
But a short time later, he came back in a rage and fired on the two men, the authorities said. Mr. Kuchibhotla was killed, and Mr. Madasani was wounded, along with a 24-year-old man who had tried to apprehend the gunman, who fled.
Mr. Purinton, 51, was extradited to Kansas from Missouri on Friday, and he is charged with premeditated first-degree murder and two counts of attempted premeditated first-degree murder.
The attack, which the federal and local authorities are investigating as a possible hate crime, reverberated far beyond both states. It raised new alarms about a climate of hostility toward foreigners in the United States, where President Trump has made clamping down on immigration a central plank of his “America first” agenda. The White House strongly rejected the notion that there might be any connection between the shooting and the new administration’s sharp language about immigration.
“People are devastated,” said Somil Chandwani, a friend of the two victims who lives in Overland Park, Kan. “I wouldn’t say they are angry. They have a sense of insecurity at the moment. People are trying to find answers.”
A charging document released on Friday gave no details about the motive for the shooting. Law enforcement officials in Kansas, citing the continuing investigation and judicial ethics standards, said little about the episode.
Still, the F.B.I.’s role in the inquiry suggested that officials had found some evidence that could eventually lead to civil rights charges in connection with the shooting, which occurred around 7:15 p.m. Wednesday.
“He snapped, and this is not his typical self,” the suspect’s mother, Marsha Purinton, said before declining further comment.
Srinivas Kuchibhotla, right, with his wife, Sunayana Dumala, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in an undated photo. Mr. Kuchibhotla was shot dead outside a bar in Kansas on Wednesday.
COURTESY OF KRANTI SHALIA, VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS
In a brief phone interview on Friday night, Mr. Madasani described the remarks made Wednesday by the man sitting near him and Mr. Kuchibhotla at the restaurant. “He asked us what visa are we currently on and whether we are staying here illegally,” Mr. Madasani said. (Both men were educated in the United States and were working here legally.)
“We didn’t react,” Mr. Madasani said. “People do stupid things all the time. This guy took it to the next level.”
Mr. Madasani said he went in to get a manager, and by the time he returned to the patio, the man was being escorted out.
After Mr. Purinton was thrown out, Jeremy Luby, 41, a software developer, said he offered to pick up the tab for the two men, who thanked him during a brief conversation about work and cultural differences.
“It was wrong what happened to them,” Mr. Luby said. “I thought it was a nice gesture to say, ‘I’m sorry someone was being rude to you like that.’”
After the shooting began, another patron, Ian Grillot, 24, said he tried to count the shots while he hid under a table. Thinking the gunman had run out of ammunition, Mr. Grillot said, he confronted him, only to be shot in the hand and the chest.
“It wasn’t right, and I didn’t want the gentleman to potentially go after somebody else,” Mr. Grillot said in a video released by the hospital where he received treatment. “He did it once. What would stop him from doing it again?”
The shots echoed around the area, and Chris Lacross soon emerged from a store a few doors down to an unimaginable scene: an emergency medical technician performing CPR on a man lying in the doorway of the bar’s front patio, where tables and chairs had been flipped over, and someone was shouting that they needed towels.