OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A man has been charged with murder in what some witnesses described as a racially motivated shooting at a crowded suburban Kansas City bar that left one Indian man dead and two other men hospitalized.
Local police were working with the FBI to investigate the shooting Wednesday night in Olathe, Kansas, but have declined to describe the attack as a hate crime.
A bartender at Austins Bar and Grill said Adam Purinton used racial slurs before opening fire as patrons watched a college basketball game on television. The 51-year-old was taken into custody about five hours later after he told a bartender at an Applebee’s some 70 miles away in Clinton, Missouri, that he had been involved in a shooting.
The Kansas City Star reported that he told the bartender he needed a place to hide out because he had just killed two Middle Eastern men. The paper did not cite its sources.
Purinton has been charged with murder and attempted murder. The men who were shot were identified as Srinivas Kuchibhotla, 32, who died at a hospital, and 32-year-old Alok Madasani and 24-year-old Ian Grillot, who were hospitalized, police said.
Madasani was released from the hospital Thursday.
The LinkedIn accounts for Kuchibhotla and Madasani describe them as engineers for GPS device-maker Garmin, which has a customer-service center in Olathe.
The Indian government said its diplomats would monitor progress in the investigation in Kansas.
Asked at a news conference Thursday if the involvement of federal authorities indicated the shooting might be considered a hate crime, FBI agent Eric Jackson said it was too early to say.
“We’re looking to make sure that the individual involved in this is held accountable for his actions,” Jackson said.
Bartender Garret Bohnen told the Kansas City Star that Kuchibhotla and Madasani stopped at Austins for a drink once or twice a week.
“From what I understand, when he was throwing racial slurs at the two gentlemen, Ian (Grillot) stood up for them,” Bohnen said. “We’re all proud of him.”
Witnesses also told the Star that Purinton yelled “get out of my country” before he opened fire.
From his hospital bed, Grillot said Thursday that when the gunfire began, he hid under a table until nine shots had been fired. Believing the suspect’s magazine was empty, he then chased the gunman in hopes of subduing him.
“I guess I miscounted with everything going on. And I got behind him, and he turned around and fired a round at me,” Grillot said in a video from the University of Kansas Health System.
Grillot said the bullet went through his right hand and into his chest, just missing a major artery but fracturing a vertebrae in his neck.
“Another half inch, I could be dead or never walk again,” Grillot said, wearing a neck brace. His injured hand remains immobilized.
Grillot did not detail what led to the shooting, saying only that “it’s not about where he (the victim) was from or his ethnicity” and that he felt compelled to intervene.
“I was just doing what anyone should have done for another human being,” he said, adding that Madasani visited him in the hospital and that they have become friends because of their shared ordeal.
“We’re definitely going to be spending a little time together,” Grillot said. “I don’t think it’s going to be at the bar, though. Maybe some grilling in the backyard with a beer or two.”
Olathe Police Sgt. Logan Bonney said officers were interviewing and re-interviewing witnesses Friday to shore up the case.
“We want to present the best case possible and separate fact from fiction for the benefit of the victims and the community,” he said.
In India, the attack shock waves through the hometowns of the two Indian men.
The Indian government said Kuchibhotla was from the southern state of Telangana, and his body would be transported to the capital city of Hyderabad, where his family lives.
Mourners poured into Hyderabad. His parents were unable to talk after receiving word of his death. They have another son working in the United States.