Washington: An Indian engineer was killed and two others injured when an American man opened fire on them after allegedly yelling “get out of my country”, with the local police calling it as a “possible hate crime”.
Srinivas Kuchibhotla, 32, working at the Garmin headquarters in Olathe, was killed in the shooting on Wednesday night, while another Indian and his colleague Alok Madasani was critically injured and is battling for life at a local hospital.
One other identified as Ian Grillot was also injured in the shooting.
The accused, Adam Purinton, 51, was arrested on Thursday morning, five hours after the incident.
“It was a tragic and senseless act of violence,” Olathe Police Chief Steven Menke told reporters.
According to local media reports, he yelled “get out of my country” at the Indians.
Purinton, a navy veteran, later reportedly told a bartender in Clinton, Missouri, where he was hiding that he killed two Middle Eastern persons, the Kansas City Star said.
The Indian Embassy has swung into action and two senior officials of the Indian Consulate in Houston have been sent to Kansas to assist the victims’ families.
“Consul Ravindra Joshi and Vice Consul Harpal Singh rushed to Kansas to assist shooting victim. They are on their way and will reach by evening,” the consulate said in a tweet.
The accused has been charged with premeditated first-degree murder and his bond has been set at USD 2 million.
According to Garmin, Kuchibhotla and Madasani worked in the company’s aviation systems.
“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,” Garmin said in a statement.
The FBI, meanwhile, has joined local police authorities in the investigation.
“The FBI is investigating to determine if the shooting of Kuchibhotla, was a bias-motivated hate crime in violation of the victims’ civil rights,” Eric Jackson, special agent in charge of the FBI s Kansas City office told reporters at a news conference.
The shooter, 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 that he killed two Middle Eastern persons, local media reported.
He has been charged with 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 also worked at the Federal Aviation Administration, but left FAA in 2000.
Friends of Kuchibhotla have set up a GoFundMe page to help raise funds for sending his remains to India.
“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,” the fund raising page said.
“His wife Sunayana and his family are now faced with incredible grief and a multitude of expenses,” it said.
The shooting incident comes at a time when hate crimes and acts of bigotry have risen notably during the recent months in America.
It has sent shocked waves among Indian-American and the Indian community across the United States.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Kuchibhotla,” said Jay Kansara, director of Government Relations at Hindu American Foundation.
“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,” he said.
A report in The Kansas City Star said 24-year-old Grillot hid behind a table when Purinton opened fire.
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 the 24-year-old Olathe man’s hand and into his chest.
“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,” he said.
Grillot said that he learned Madasani s wife is five months pregnant and that he considers the engineer his new best friend.
The sports bar where the shooting took place has been closed with a sign on the door that said it would remain closed indefinitely.
(With PTI inputs)