North America

US at war with itself over ‘hate crime’ shooting of Indians

Adam Purinton

Navy Veteran charged with shooting two Indians in possible hate crime

A 51-year-old Kansas man has been charged with killing an Indian engineer and wounding two other men when he opened fire in a bar in what federal authorities say is a possible hate crime that shocked the victim’s home country, Reuters and multiple news services reported.

The shooting on Wednesday night led news bulletins in India and triggered outrage on social media, where people voiced concern that U.S. President Donald Trump’s “America First” position on immigration and jobs has fueled a climate of intolerance.

Navy veteran Adam Purinton was charged on Thursday in Johnson County, Kansas, with one count of premeditated first-degree murder and two counts of attempted premeditated first-degree murder, District Attorney Stephen Howe told reporters.

He declined to elaborate on the details of the incident or the motive for the shooting.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation was looking at whether it was a hate crime. A spokeswoman for the agency said FBI agents and police canvassed the area on Thursday and were continuing their investigation on Friday.

Purinton is accused of killing Srinivas Kuchibhotla, 32, and wounding Alok Madasani, also 32, in Austins Bar and Grill in Olathe, Kansas, on Wednesday evening, the city’s police department said.

At least one bystander told the Kansas City Star the gunman shouted “get out of my country” before shooting the Indian victims. He is also accused of wounding American Ian Grillot, 24, who was shot as he tried to intervene.

“People call me a hero,” Grillot said in a video released by the hospital where he was undergoing treatment for gunshot wounds to the hand and chest. “I was just doing what anyone should have done for any other human being.”

The suspect fled on foot and was arrested without incident five hours later at an Applebee’s restaurant in Clinton, Missouri. He reportedly told an employee there that he needed a place to hide because he had killed two Middle Eastern men, the Star reported.

Purinton, a former Federal Aviation Administration employee, was later transfered to the custody of Kansas authorities.

At Kuchibhotla’s family home near the Indian tech hub of Hyderabad, relatives backed government calls to ensure the safety of Indians living in the United States.

“The government should voice out this strongly because our brothers, sisters and our relatives are there,” the victim’s brother, Venu Madhav, told Reuters Television outside their home.

Many Indians initially welcomed Trump’s election, seeing his calls to restrict Muslim immigration as support for their Hindu-majority country. The nation has been at odds for decades with Pakistan, its mainly Muslim neighbor.

But the Trump administration may also have skilled Indian workers like Kuchibhotla in mind as it considers curbing the H-1B visa program, worrying both India’s $150 billion IT services industry and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.

“Don’t be shocked! Be angry!” Siddharth, a well-known South Indian actor who uses one name, tweeted to his 2.6 million followers in remarks echoed across social media. “Trump is spreading hate. This is a hate crime! RIP #SrinivasKuchibhotla.”