By Associated Press
A man accused of shooting two Indians in a crowded suburban Kansas City bar, killing one man and injuring two others in an attack that some witnesses said was racially motivated, has been charged with murder and attempted murder.
Authorities repeatedly declined at a Thursday news conference to say whether the shooting was a hate crime although local police said they were working with the FBI to investigate the case.
A bartender at Austins Bar and Grill in Olathe, Kansas, said Adam Purinton used “racial slurs” before he started shooting Wednesday night as patrons were watching the University of Kansas-TCU basketball game on television.
Srinivas Kuchibhotla, 32, died at an area hospital, police said. Alok Madasani, 32, and Ian Grillot, 24, were hospitalized and are in stable condition, they said. The Linkedin accounts for Kuchibhotla and Madasani say that they were engineers working at GPS-maker Garmin and had studied in India.
In India, the shooting sent shock waves through the victims’ hometowns and India’s government was rushing diplomats to monitor progress in the investigation.
A spokesman for India’s External Affairs Ministry, Vikas Swarup, said Kuchibhotla was an Indian national from the southern state of Telangana.
Sushma Swaraj, India’s External Affairs Minister, said Kuchibhotla’s body will be transported to the city of Hyderabad, where his family lives.
Local, county, state and federal law enforcement authorities attended the news conference where the murder charges were announced.
Asked if the presence of federal authorities indicated the shooting could be considered a hate crime, FBI special agent Eric Jackson said it was too early to determine.
“This was a violent crime and we want the best prosecution that relates to this because there are victims of this crime and we want the community to know that … we’re looking to make sure that the individual involved in this is held accountable for his actions.”
Bartender Garret Bohnen told the Kansas City Star that Kuchibhotla and Madasani stopped at Austins for a drink once or twice a week.
“From what I understand when he was throwing racial slurs at the two gentlemen (Kuchibhotla and Madasani), Ian (Grillot) stood up for them,” Bohnen said. “We’re all proud of him.”
Witnesses also told the Star that Purinton, 51, yelled “get out of my country” before he opened fire.
Grillot said in an interview from his hospital bed that when the shooting broke out, he hid until nine shots had been fired and he thought the suspect’s gun magazine was empty.
“I got up and proceeded to chase him down, try to subdue him,” Grillot said in a video from the University of Kansas Health System posted on the Star website. “I got behind him and he turned around and fired a round at me.”
Grillot said that the bullet went through his hand and into his chest, just missing a major artery.
“It’s not about where he (victim) was from or his ethnicity,” Grillot said. “We’re all humans, so I just did what was right to do.”
GoFundMe pages were started to help pay expenses for all three of the victims.
U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas posted a statement on Facebook saying he was very disturbed by the shooting.
“I strongly condemn violence of any kind, especially if it is motivated by prejudice and xenophobia,” Moran said.
Purinton was taken into custody just after midnight on Thursday morning at an Applebee’s about 70 miles to the southeast of Olathe in Clinton, Missouri, authorities said.
Assistant Clinton Police Chief Sonny Lynch said an Applebee’s bartender summoned police to the bar where the man was drinking because he said he’d been involved in a shooting. The unarmed Purinton was taken into custody and interviewed by detectives from Olathe.
“He mentioned he had been involved in a shooting and we went out there and picked him up,” Lynch said.
The bar where the shooting took place was closed Thursday, with a sign in the door that said it would remain closed indefinitely.