‘Get Out of My Country’: Indian Engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla Shot Dead in Kansas Bar
A Kansas man allegedly mistook a pair of Indian-born engineers relaxing in a suburban Kansas City bar for Middle Easterners and told them to “get out of my country” before he shot them both, one of them fatally, on Wednesday.
The Kansas City Star reports 51-year-old Adam Purinton of Olathe, Kansas was charged with premeditated first-degree murder on Thursday for the shooting death of Srinivas Kuchibhotla, 32, who died at a hospital following the 7:15 p.m. incident at Austins Bar & Grill near 151st Street and Mur-Len Road in Olathe, 22 miles (35 km) southwest of Kansas City.
Kuchibhotla stopped by the bar to have a drink with his friend Alok Madasani when the deadly incident occurred. Witnesses said Purinton was spouting racial slurs at the men before he attacked them. After yelling at Kuchibhotla to “get out of my country,” Purinton allegedly shot him and Madasani. When 24-year-old Ian Grillot attempted to stop the gunman, he too was shot, taking a bullet in the chest. Grillot had been hiding behind a table and counting the number of shots fired; when he thought the shooter was out of bullets he jumped up to confront him.
“I guess I miscounted,” he told the Star from his hospital bed. “I wasn’t really thinking when I did that. It… wasn’t right, and I didn’t want the gentleman to potentially go after somebody else… I was just doing what anyone should have done. It’s not about where he’s from, or ethnicity. We’re all humans.”
Madasani, 32, was released from a hospital on Thursday, while Grillot is still recovering there. Purinton has additionally been charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder in connection with their shootings.
Purinton fled on foot following the shootings, sparking a multi-state manhunt. Five hours later, the suspect appeared at the bar of an Applebee’s restaurant in Clinton, Missouri, 80 miles (129 km) from the murder scene. He allegedly told a bartender there he needed a place to hide out because he just killed “two Middle Eastern men.” The bartender alerted police, who arrested Purinton, a Navy veteran and former pilot and air traffic controller, without incident.
Kuchibhotla worked with Madasani on the Aviation Systems Engineering team at Olathe-based Garmin Ltd. His LinkedIn page said he managed helicopter programs. Originally from Hyderabad, India, Kuchibhotla was known as an exceptional engineer. “He was very sharp. A top-of-his-class kind of guy,” said former boss Ron Larson, who told the Star Kuchibhotla was instrumental in helping his company develop its first fly-by-wire planes. “His personality was exceptional. He was the kind of employee every manager would want.”
“I couldn’t say anything slightly bad about Srinivas,” Larson added. “He was well-liked by anybody. He was excellent in all categories. He was a low-maintenance employee and did whatever was asked of him.”
“Srini was the kindest person you would meet, full of love, care and compassion for everyone,” a GoFundMe page started to raise money for the victim’s family said. “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. His wife Sunayana and his family are now faced with incredible grief and a multitude of expenses.”
Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe was joined by local leaders, as well as local and federal law enforcement officials, when the charges against Purinton were announced at Olathe police headquarters on Thursday. “We pray that those in mourning will find comfort in the outpouring of love and support across our community,” Olathe Mayor Michael Copeland said. Olathe Police Chief Steven Menke called the shooting “a tragic and senseless act of violence.”
Kuchibhotla is possibly the first fatal victim of the xenophobic, anti-Muslim violence that has been surging since the election of President Donald Trump. The civil rights monitoring and advocacy group Southern Poverty Law Center counted more than 1,000 bias-related incidents in the month following the election. Indians have long been mistaken for Muslims and attacked, sometimes fatally, by Americans, most of them right-wing bigots. Members of the Sikh religion have been targeted, both mistakenly as Muslims and in other attacks, most notably the 2012 white supremacist massacre of six people at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin.
Even before Trump’s election, hate crimes targeting Muslims were on the rise, with such attacks soaring by 67 percent in 2015 to their highest levels since the 9/11 attacks, according to 2016 FBI statistics.
The American Embassy in Delhi, India swiftly condemned the Olathe shootings. “The United States is a nation of immigrants and welcomes people from across the world to visit, work, study, and live,” MaryKay Carlson, the US charge d’affaires, said in a statement. “US authorities will investigate thoroughly and prosecute the case, though we recognize that justice is small consolation to families in grief.”