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Suspect In Kansas Shooting Faces Possible Hate Crime Charges


In the Kansas City suburbs, authorities are trying to determine whether an attack on South Asian men at a bar this week qualifies as a federal hate crime. The shooting left one person dead and two injured. It left the community trying to make sense of what happened. Laura Ziegler from member station KCUR reports.

LAURA ZIEGLER, BYLINE: Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani were frequent patrons of Austin's Bar and Grill, a popular sports bar in Olathe, Kan. On Wednesday night, the place was packed with fans watching the Kansas Jayhawks. Witnesses report they heard an argument, and heard someone yell, get out of my country. Then there was gunfire.

Thirty-two-year-old Kuchibhotla, an engineer at tech giant Garmin was shot and later died. Madasani, also 32, a friend and fellow Garmin engineer, was wounded. Ian Grillot was also watching the game. He lunged at the man with a gun from behind an overturned table. Witnesses say the man turned and shot Grillot in the chest. In an interview with The Kansas City Star from his hospital bed, Grillot said Madasani came to see him in his hospital room.


IAN GRILLOT: It was the greatest thing. I come to find out his wife is five months pregnant. Somebody was watching over me and him.

ZIEGLER: Grillot is still in the hospital with serious injuries. Madasani has been released. Adam W. Purinton, a Navy vet who also lives in suburban Olathe, is charged with one count of premeditated first degree murder and two counts of attempted premeditated murder. He's in custody on $2 million bond. The U.S. attorney's office and the FBI are working with local authorities. FBI Special Agent in Charge Eric Jackson says to prove a violation of civil rights, a hate crime, they have to have proof of intent. They don't have that evidence at this time.


ERIC JACKSON: I have FBI personnel working this investigation from every angle. When we're ready, we're going to present it to both our local partners and to the United States Attorney's Office.

ZIEGLER: The shooting took place in Johnson County, Kan. Olathe is an affluent suburb in the county known for its cul-de-sacs, where kids play safely. It's become a mecca for the Indian community. And it's a sizable group. There are some 25,000 Indians living in the Kansas City metro. Many live and work in Johnson County as engineers and IT support at international firms like Garmin and Sprint.

This community is working hard not to succumb to fear following this week's tragedy. I met Parvati Chillara, president of the India Association of Kansas City at a Starbucks in the area just the day after the horrific crime. She says she watched her teenage daughter talking about the events on social media with her friends. And she was encouraged.

PARVATI CHILLARA: They were having this conversation in their texts. They were doing their Instagram. They said, this can happen to anyone, and we have a full proud where we are in the Johnson County.

ZIEGLER: You have pride?

CHILLARA: Yeah. We have pride.

ZIEGLER: Even the Indian government has responded to the shooting. Thursday night. Officials dispatched one of India's consul generals from Houston. He met with the family of the victims and offered support and condolences from the government. Kansas City's not unfamiliar with what may turn out to be a racially-motivated crime. Three years ago, three Christians were shot at the Jewish Community Center. The killer thought he was targeting Jews.

Adam Purinton reportedly told the bartender at the Missouri Applebee's where he was arrested a few hours after the incident that he'd shot some Middle Easterners. He apparently didn't realize the two engineers were from India. For NPR News, I'm Laura Ziegler in Kansas City. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Laura Ziegler began her career at KCUR as a reporter more than 20 years ago. She became the news director in the mid 1980's and in 1988, went to National Public Radio in Washington, D.C. as a producer for Weekend Edition Saturday with Scott Simon.