HYDERABAD, India (AP) — The mother of an Indian engineer who was killed in an apparently racially motivated shooting in an American bar said she asked her son to come back to India if he felt threatened in the United States, but he said he was not in any danger.
Srinivas Kuchibhotla’s mother wailed Tuesday as her son’s body was cremated in his hometown of Hyderabad.
“I had asked him to return to India if he was feeling insecure there. But he used to say he was safe and secure,” Parvatha Vardhini said.
Now she wants her younger son and his family to come home from the U.S. “I will not allow them to go back,” she said. “My son had gone there in search of a better future. What crime did he commit?”
Hundreds of grieving relatives and friends tearfully mourned the 32-year-old who arrived in the U.S. in 2005 to pursue a master’s degree at the University of Texas at El Paso.
“It is so cruel. He was such a kind soul, very friendly. He was so excited that he and his wife were going to start a family soon. Now this has happened,” said P. L. Narayana, his uncle.
His father, Madhusudhan Rao, was philosophical: “I believe in destiny. Whatever was destined has happened.”
He added, “Now I want the U.S. government to take care of the security of our Indians who are working there.”
A statement issued Tuesday by the Indian External Affairs Ministry said American authorities “are engaged with us on the larger concern regarding safety of Indians in the U.S., a matter which continues to receive the government’s top priority.”
Meanwhile in the United States, the FBI said for the first time Tuesday that it is investigating the Feb. 22 attack as a hate crime. The agency said it is working with federal prosecutors and local authorities but declined to elaborate.
Kuchibhotla’s body was flown Monday from Newark, New Jersey. His widow, Sunaina Dumala, looking dazed, and his brother, Sai Kiran, who studies in the United States, arrived on the same flight.
Hours later, the flower-laden body was taken in an open carriage from his home to a crematorium in the Jubilee Hills area, where it was placed on a wooden pyre and lit as part of Hindu last rites.
According to witnesses, the gunman yelled “get out of my country” at Kuchibhotla and a colleague named Alok Madasani before opening fire at Austins Bar and Grill in Olathe, Kansas, a suburb of Kansas City. Both men worked as engineers at GPS device-maker Garmin.
Madasani and another bar patron were wounded.
Adam Purinton of Olathe was arrested at a bar in Missouri after telling a bartender that he shot two people he described as Iranian. He remains jailed on murder and attempted murder charges.
A message left Tuesday by The Associated Press for Michael McCulloch, the chief public defender in Johnson County, Kansas, was not immediately returned. McCulloch’s office is representing Purinton.
Associated Press Writer Jim Suhr in Kansas City, Missouri, contributed to this story.