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‘Get out of my country,’ Kansan reportedly yelled before shooting 2 men from India, killing one

The Washington Post logoThe Washington Post 2/24/2017 Samantha Schmidt
Adam Purinton, of Olathe, Kan. © Henry County Sheriff’s Office via AP Adam Purinton, of Olathe, Kan.

A 51-year-old man faces first-degree murder charges after shooting three men in an Olathe, Kan., bar Wednesday night, police say, reportedly telling two of them, local Garmin engineers from India, to “get out of my country.”

One of the Indian men, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, 32, died in the hospital later from his gunshot wounds.

Authorities would not classify the shooting as a hate crime, but federal law enforcement officials said Thursday they are investigating with local police to determine if it was “bias motivated.”

Adam W. Purinton, 51, of Olathe, was also charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder for shooting two other patrons at Austin’s Bar and Grill: Alok Madasani, 32, of Overland Park, Kan. and 24-year-old Ian Grillot of Grandview, Kan., who tried to intervene.

Madasani had been released from a hospital Thursday and Grillot continued to recover.

Witnesses told the Kansas City Star and The Washington Post that Purinton was thought to have been kicked out the bar Wednesday night before the shooting took place. “He seemed kind of distraught,” Garret Bohnen, a regular at Austin’s who was there that night told The Post in an interview. “He started drinking pretty fast.”

He reportedly came back into the bar and hurled racial slurs at the two Indian men, including comments that suggested he thought they were of Middle Eastern descent. When he started firing shots, Grillot, a regular at the bar whom Bohnen called “everyone’s friend,” intervened.

In a video obtained by the Kansas City Star, Grillot spoke from the hospital about why he stepped in: “It wasn’t right, and I didn’t want the gentleman to potentially go after somebody else,” Grillot said.

Just after midnight, Purinton, a Navy veteran, IT specialist, and former pilot and air traffic controller, was taken into custody about 70 miles away in Clinton, Mo., authorities told the Associated Press.

Assistant Clinton Police Chief Sonny Lynch said an Applebee’s bartender called police because Purinton told him he had been involved in a shooting, according to the Associated Press. He appeared before a judge in Henry County, Mo., and waived his right to fight extradition. His bond was set at $2 million, and authorities said they hope to have him back in custody in Johnson County soon.

In a news conference Thursday, officials declined to go into detail regarding the shooting and could not speak to whether it might be considered a hate crime. Olathe Police Chief Steven Menke said local and federal law enforcement “will continue to investigate any and all aspects of this horrific crime.”

Meanwhile, the Kansas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations called Thursday for state and federal hate crime charges to be brought against Purinton “in order to send a strong message that violence targeting religious or ethnic minorities will not be tolerated,” CAIR-Kansas Board Chair Moussa Elbayoumy said in a statement. Elbayoumy added that two Kansas men were sentenced Wednesday for their roles in an unrelated hate attack on three Somali Muslims in that state.

India’s Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj tweeted about the Olathe shooting numerous times Thursday, saying she was “shocked” and that two Indian embassy officials have “rushed to Kansas.” She added that Indian officials would make all arrangements to transport the mortal remains of Kuchibhotla to Hyderabad, India.

Kuchibhotla and Madasani were employees on the Aviation Systems Engineering team at Garmin Ltd., headquartered in Olathe. Garmin released a statement saying it was saddened by the shootings and would have grievance counselors on-site and available for its employees in Kansas on Thursday and Friday.

According to Kuchibhotla’s LinkedIn account, he held a master’s degree in electrical and electronics engineering from the University of Texas at El Paso and earned his bachelor’s degree at the Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University in India. Madasani’s LinkedIn said he studied at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and at Vasavi College of Engineering in India.

Kavipriya Muthuramalingam, a good friend of Kuchibhotla’s, said in an interview with The Post the two were part of a tight-knit group of friends who all used to work at the aerospace company Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids. She said Kuchibhotla was a kind, level-headed and technically skilled friend who was always smiling. She called him “one of the best people you’ve ever met in your life” and “the perfect example of a decent gentleman.”

Muthuramalingam, who now lives in Irvine, Calif., said she and her fellow Indian friends had not yet begun to discuss any potentially racially-biased motives of the shooting. She said “it affects us all on different levels,” but for now, they were all “just focusing on the fact that such a good person was lost.”

She started a GoFundMe account to help relieve medical and funeral expenses for Kuchibhotla’s wife Sunayana and their family. In about eight hours Thursday the page had raised nearly $205,000.

Maggie Grillot, whose brother was the third bar patron shot after he intervened, commented on the GoFundMe page, telling Kuchibhotla’s family she was “so very sorry” for their loss.

“My brother wishes he could have done more for your family,” she wrote.

Bohnen, the regular at Austin’s who was there that night, and who has worked there in the past, said Kuchibhotla and Madasani would come in all the time. Though they kept to themselves, they were always friendly and willing to share a cigarette or take shots of gin with Bohnen.

Austin’s staff gathered at an employee’s house Wednesday night to help each other grapple with the night’s events, and on Thursday, employees went into the bar to help clean up. Owner Brandon Blum wrote on the bar’s web page that he hoped to re-open Austin’s by Saturday. Outside the bar, flowers were left at a makeshift memorial, the Kansas City Star reported.

“We are so sorry that this happened on our premises,” Blum wrote. “We have never experienced any sort of tragedy like this in our 30 years.”

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