An apparent act of racial hatred left an Indian engineer dead and another injured in Olathe city in Kansas in Midwestern U.S. on Wednesday night.
After the day’s work, Srinivas Kuchibhotla (32), along with his friend Alok Madasani, had gone to a bar, where he was shot, allegedly by a 51-year-old Navy veteran who shouted, “get out of my country,” before the act. Kuchibhotla died later, while Mr. Madasani who was also hit, has recovered and has been discharged from hospital.
Ian Grillot, a 24-year-old white man, who took a bullet on his chest trying to stop the shooter, has emerged the hero in the tragic episode that snuffed out the dreams of the Hyderabad-born Kuchibhotla.
The police arrested Adam Purinton on murder charges and the case is being investigated as a possible hate crime. “I was just doing what anyone should have done,” Mr. Grillot told Kansas City Star from his hospital bed. “It’s not about where he’s from, or ethnicity. We’re all humans.” He is out of danger.
Kuchibhotla is possibly the first fatal victim of racial tensions since Donald Trump elected President in November 2016. The Southern Poverty Law Centre (SPCL), a civil rights organisation, has catalogued 1,094 incidents of bias in the first 34 days of Mr. Trump’s presidency, which followed a year of racially surcharged election campaign.
The total number of hate groups in America grew from 892 in 2015 to 917 in 2016. The SPCL has also recorded a sharper 197 % spike in the number anti-Muslim groups, 101 in 2016 compared to 34 the year before.
The Kansas shooter told a bartender 80 miles away from Olathe that he had shot two “Middle Easterners”, according to reports in local newspapers. He wanted a place to hide, but the bartender reported him to the police.
Asked to leave the bar
“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. His wife Sunayana and his family are now faced with incredible grief and a multitude of expenses,” said a GoFundMe page started to raise money for the family of the deceased. Two other campaigns are raising money for Mr. Madasani and Mr. Grillot.
According to officials tracking the case and emerging news reports, the shooter was asked by the Olathe bar manager to leave the place when he started racial slurs against Kuchibhotla and Mr. Madasani. He went out, but returned after 15 minutes, with a gun this time and opened fire. The shooter fled the scene after shooting at Mr. Grillot who tried to stop him.
Originally from Hyderabad, Kuchibhotla was a B. Tech in electrical and electronics engineering from Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University. He had a master’s degree from the University of Texas El Paso.
Mr. Madasani graduated from Vasavi College of Engineering and came to the U.S. as a Master’s student at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Both worked for Garmin, a communications device company.
Anecdotal evidence points to a sweeping sense of insecurity among the three million plus Indian Americans, many of whom are nervous about moving around freely in recent weeks. Several incidents of bullying and abuse targeting Indian Americans have surfaced too. “We call upon the U.S. 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,” said Jay Kansara, director of government relations of the Hindu American Foundation.