OLATHE, Kan. (AP) – A man has been charged with murder in what some witnesses described as a racially motivated shooting at a crowded suburban Kansas City bar that left one Indian man dead and two other men hospitalized.
Local police are working with the FBI to investigate the shooting Wednesday night in Olathe, Kansas, but have declined to describe the attack as a hate crime.
A bartender at Austins Bar and Grill said Adam Purinton used “racial slurs” before he opened fire as patrons watched the University of Kansas-TCU basketball game on television. Srinivas Kuchibhotla, 32, died at a hospital, while 32-year-old Alok Madasani and 24-year-old Ian Grillot are hospitalized in stable condition, police said.
Purinton, 51, was taken into custody about five hours after the shooting after he told a bartender at an Applebee’s some 70 miles away in Clinton that he had been involved in a shooting.
A spokesman for India’s External Affairs Ministry, Vikas Swarup, said Kuchibhotla was from the southern state of Telangana. Sushma Swaraj, India’s External Affairs Minister, said Kuchibhotla’s body would be transported to the city of Hyderabad, where his family lives.
The LinkedIn accounts for Kuchibhotla and Madasani describe them as engineers for GPS device-maker Garmin, which has a customer service center in Olathe.
India’s government said its diplomats would monitor progress in the investigation in Kansas.
Asked at a news conference Thursday if the involvement of federal authorities indicated the shooting might 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 yelled “get out of my country” before he opened fire.
Grillot said in an interview from his hospital bed that when the gunfire started, 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. “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 (the victim) was from or his ethnicity,” Grillot said. “We’re all humans, so I just did what was right to do.”
GoFundMe pages have been established to help pay the victims’ expenses.
U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas posted a statement on Facebook saying he was disturbed by the shooting.
“I strongly condemn violence of any kind, especially if it is motivated by prejudice and xenophobia,” Moran said.
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