Houston: The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has joined local police authorities in the investigation of a possible hate crime in a bar in Kansas that left Indian engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla dead and 2 others injured.
“The FBI is investigating to determine if the shooting of Srinivas 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, Adam Purinton 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 $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.
Witness accounts suggested that Purinton, who was drunk, yelled ‘get out of my country’ and ‘terrorist’ at the two Indians before opening fire on them in the bar.
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.
Meanwhile, the US Embassy here condemned the incident and said American authorities would thoroughly investigate the case, and prosecute the accused.
The shooting incident comes at a time when hate crimes and acts of bigotry have risen notably during recent months in America. It has sent shock waves among Indian-American and Indian communities 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 Ian Grillot, also at the bar during the shooting, 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.