FBI investigating shooting of two Indian men in Kansas bar as a hate crime

The Washington Post

Authorities are now investigating a shooting in Kansas that killed one Indian man and wounded another as a hate crime, the FBI said Tuesday.

The shooting last week sparked unease in Kansas and across the globe, after witnesses said that the accused gunman had told the two men to "get out of my country" before opening fire. While President Donald Trump has been criticized for not speaking out on the shooting in Olathe, Kansas, following the FBI's announcement Tuesday, the White House called the attack "an act of racially motivated hatred."

One of the Indian men shot during the attack - Srinivas Kuchibhotla, 32 - died in the hospital from his wounds, police said. Alok Madasani, 32, of Overland Park, Kansas, who was injured, was released from the hospital on Thursday, a day after the attack. Both men worked for Garmin, the technology firm. The attack also wounded a third man who apparently tried to intervene.

Police arrested and charged Adam Purinton, 51, with the shooting in Olathe, a city about 20 miles southwest of Kansas City. Purinton, who made his first court appearance Monday, apparently thought the two men he shot were Iranian, according to a 911 call released after he was taken into custody.

Following the shooting at Austin's Bar and Grill, authorities did not immediately indicate whether they thought it was a hate crime. Officials instead said they were probing to see if it was spurred by bias, and they cautioned in the days after the shooting that it was still early in their investigation.

On Tuesday afternoon, nearly a week after Kuchibhotla was shot and killed, the FBI announced that the investigation had prompted officials to investigate the incident as a hate crime, which could lead to potential federal charges down the line.

"Based upon the initial investigative activity, the FBI, in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney's Office and the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, is investigating this incident as a hate crime," an FBI spokeswoman said in a statement. "The FBI will continue to work jointly with Olathe Police Department and our state and local partners regarding this ongoing investigation."

The shooting has continued to resonate in India, where some have linked the killing to what they see as a rise in racism in the United States since Trump's election. In some cases, students who dreamed about traveling to the United States to study now say they are scared to go to the country. Madasani's father told the Hindustan Times he had asked his son to come home and, after the shooting, implored other parents not to send their children there.

"The situation seems to be pretty bad after Trump took over as the U.S. president," he said. "I appeal to all the parents in India not to send their children to the United States in the present circumstances."

The White House has pushed back against any suggestion that links Trump's rhetoric about immigrants to the shooting, but his administration has otherwise largely been silent on the issue, prompting a critical Kansas City Star editorial published online Monday evening.

"At some point, embarrassingly late begins to verge on something more disquieting," the editorial states. "President Donald Trump has silently planted himself in that space."

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House principal deputy press secretary, condemned the shooting on Tuesday and suggested to reporters that Trump would mention it during his address to Congress later that night.

"As more facts come to light and it begins to look like this was an act of racially motivated hatred," Sanders said. "I want to reiterate the President condemns these or any other racially or religiously motivated attacks in the strongest terms. They have no place in our country."

A third man injured in the attack, Ian Grillot, said he tried to intervene during the shooting; he, too, was shot. In video posted online, Grillot, his neck in a brace, insisted he is not a hero, but instead was just doing the right thing.

"I was just doing what anyone should have done for another human being," Grillot said. "It's not about where he was from or his ethnicity. We're all humans. I just felt I did what was naturally right to do."

In India, hundreds of mourning relatives gathered Tuesday at funeral rites for Kuchibhotla, a somber gathering that gave way to political overtones, as politicians turned up with signs, one reading "Down with Trump." Kuchibhotla's wife and mother wept as they washed and prepared his body for cremation, and his mother had to be revived after fainting.

Purinton has previously faced criminal charges for driving incidents, including a 2008 charge for speeding and another incident in 1999 where he was flagged for driving under the influence. He has been charged with murder and attempted murder for the Olathe shooting. The Johnson County district attorney has noted that Kansas has no hate crime statutes, so if Purinton is to be charged with such a crime, it has to be on a federal level.

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