Suspect in fatal Kansas shooting thought Indian victims were Iranian – 911 call
Adam Purinton, 51, has been charged with first-degree murder and first-degree attempted murder after shooting at two 32-year-old Indian men at Austin’s Bar and Grill in Olathe, Kansas, last week.
The suspect shouted “Get out of my country!” at the victims before opening fire. He then fled the scene, driving 70 miles (110km) to an Applebee’s restaurant in Clinton, Missouri, according to a report by the AP.
Purinton then confessed to the Applebee’s bartender, Sam Suida, that he had done something “really bad” and was on the run from police, according to a 911 call from Suida.
“He asked if he could stay with me and my husband, and he wouldn't tell me what he did. I kept asking him, and he said that he would tell me if I agreed to let him stay with me,” Suida said. “Well, I finally got him to tell me and he said, like, that he shot and killed two Iranian people in Olathe...”
However, Purinton's victims were from India – not Iran. They were both employees at GPS-maker Garmin, and had originally come to the US to study. They have been identified as Srinivas Kuchibhotla, who was killed in the attack, and Alok Madasani, who was injured.
A third person, 24-year-old Ian Grillot, was also injured when he tried to intervene.
Hundreds mourned the death of Kuchibhotla in his southern Indian hometown on Tuesday, with his mother saying she will not allow her other son to return to the US.
“Now I want my younger son Sai Kiran and his family to come back for good. I will not allow them to go back,” she told AP. “My son had gone there in search of a better future. What crime did he commit?” she added.
His father, Madhusudhan Rao, said he believes in destiny, and that “whatever was destined has happened.”
He did, however, call on the US government to “take care of the security of our Indians who are working there.”
Authorities have so far declined to discuss a possible motive for the attack, or say if they are investigating it as a hate crime.
However, Purinton's neighbor, Andy Berthelsen, told AP that the suspect had become a “drunken mess” following his father's death 18 months ago, and that he doesn't believe the shooting stemmed from hatred, noting it was likely that it resulted from the 51-year-old's mental and physical deterioration.
Meanwhile, the incident has deepened concerns about the treatment of immigrants, who feel targeted by President Donald Trump's stance on immigration. This includes his plan to ban citizens from seven mainly Muslim countries, build a wall along the Mexico border and put “America first.”
Many have expressed outrage over Trump's silence on the shooting, particularly after it emerged that Purinton allegedly believed he had shot two Iranians. Iran is one of the countries on the president's travel ban list.
Earlier this month, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a civil rights group, said Trump's rhetoric on race, gender, religion and immigration had “electrified the radical right, which saw in him a champion of the idea that America is fundamentally a white man's country.”
In the month following Trump's election, the SPLC recorded 1,094 incidents of “bias-related harassment and intimidation” across the US. In more than a third of those incidents, assailants directly referenced Trump, his slogan ‘Make America Great Again’, or his past remarks about women.
In December, the American Library Association also highlighted a spate of racist incidents following Trump's win, including the defacement of Korans and other books about Islam.