JIM SUHR, AP
OLATHE — A man accused of shooting two Indians in a crowded suburban Kansas City bar, killing one man and injuring two others in an attack that some witnesses said was racially motivated, has been charged with murder and attempted murder.
Authorities repeatedly declined at a Thursday news conference to say whether the shooting was a hate crime although local police said they were working with the FBI to investigate the case.
A bartender at Austins Bar and Grill in Olathe, Kansas, said Adam Purinton used “racial slurs” before he started shooting Wednesday night as patrons were watching the University of Kansas-TCU basketball game on television.
Srinivas Kuchibhotla, 32, died at an area hospital, police said. Alok Madasani, 32, and Ian Grillot, 24, were hospitalized and are in stable condition, they said. The Linkedin accounts for Kuchibhotla and Madasani say that they were engineers working at GPS-maker Garmin and had studied in India.
In India, the shooting sent shock waves through the victims’ hometowns and India’s government was rushing diplomats to monitor progress in the investigation.
A spokesman for India’s External Affairs Ministry, Vikas Swarup, said Kuchibhotla was an Indian national from the southern state of Telangana.
Sushma Swaraj, India’s External Affairs Minister, said Kuchibhotla’s body will be transported to the city of Hyderabad, where his family lives.
Local, county, state and federal law enforcement authorities attended the news conference where the murder charges were announced.
Asked if the presence of federal authorities indicated the shooting could be considered a hate crime, FBI special agent Eric Jackson said it was too early to determine.
“This was a violent crime and we want the best prosecution that relates to this because there are victims of this crime and we want the community to know that … we’re looking to make sure that the individual involved in this is held accountable for his actions.”
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 (Kuchibhotla and Madasani), Ian (Grillot) stood up for them,” Bohnen said. “We’re all proud of him.”
Witnesses also told the Star that Purinton, 51, yelled “get out of my country” before he opened fire.