Over a thousand people gathered in a Kansas City for a peace march and prayer vigil for the slain Indian American engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla, and two other victims of the February 22 hate crime violence. Kuchibhotla, 32, was killed and his colleague Alok Madasani was injured in an apparent hate crime, when Adam W. Purinton, a white who earlier served in the U.S. Navy, shot them at the Austins Bar & Grill in Olathe, Kansas state, last week.
Kuchibhotla and Madasani worked as engineers at electronics manufacturer Garmin. “What happened that night was a senseless crime and that took away my best friend,” Madasani said of the man who befriended him in 2008. “Srini was the kindest person you would meet, full of love, care and compassion for everyone. He never uttered a word of hatred, a simple gossip, or a careless comment. He would always make sure everyone is doing fine and taken good care.”
The wife of slain Indian American engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla has publicly sought answers to what she perceived was a spread in American hate crimes, as mourners held a vigil at a local church for the victims of the bar shooting in which her husband died.
“I have a question in my mind: Do we belong here,” Sunayana Dumala asked at a news conference Feb. 24 at the headquarters of electronics manufacturer Garmin, where Kuchibhotla worked as an aviation systems engineer. “We’ve read many times in newspapers of some kind of shooting happening… And we always wondered, how safe we are?”
As per reports, Alok Madasani, the Indian injured in an apparent hate crime last week, attended the march for peace and a prayer meeting at the Ball Conference Center in Olathe Feb. 26, reported the Kansas City Star newspaper. American Ian Grillot was also shot when he tried to intervene. Grillot, an American who tried to save the Indians, remained hospitalized in fair condition. He was hit by a bullet that pierced his hand and then lodged in his chest.
Adam W. Purinton, 51, a former U.S. Navy veteran, is charged with first-degree murder and two counts of attempted first-degree murder.
Dumala said that she wanted to come back to their home in south Olathe, fulfilling her husband’s wishes for an American life and “me being successful in any field I choose,” the Kansas City Star newspaper reported. But before making that decision, “I need an answer,” she said. “I need an answer from the government. …What are they going to do to stop this hate crime?”
The vigil was sponsored by the India Association of Kansas City, reports IANS. “I wish it was a dream,” Madasani said. Mourners filled the First Baptist Church of Olathe in Kansas state Feb. 24 for a vigil for the victims of the shooting. “Love each other” was the overarching theme as visitors were greeted with solemn but spirit-filled musical numbers before prayers were offered for the families of Kuchibhotla, Madasani and Ian Grillot.
Purinton reportedly got into an argument with the victims and hurled racial slurs. He yelled “get out of my country” and “terrorist” before shooting them. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer called the shooting tragic, but did not mention it was a hate crime, saying it was too early for the administration to attach such motivations while the investigation was underway.
The Indian embassy in Washington said it is closely monitoring the tragic incident in Kansas and providing all help and assistance to Kuchibhotla’s family. In a statement, embassy spokesman Pratik Mathur said the Indian Consulate in Houston is in close contact with the family of Kuchibhotla. “In their hour of grief, we are providing all help and assistance to the bereaved family. Arrangements are being made to transport his mortal remains to India.” In a statement, Indian American Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, who represents Illinois’ 8th Congressional District, said the shooting incident appeared to be “an act of hatred.”
At the news conference Feb. 24 at the Garmin headquarters in Olathe, Madasani was greeted by a rousing standing ovation at during a companywide vigil held in honor of co-worker Kuchibhotla. Over 200 Garmin workers attended the program where they listened to Kuchibhotla’s wife share stories about they met and their lives together. In the afternoon news conference, company officials, along with Olathe Mayor Michael Copeland, pledged their support for Kuchibhotla’s family.
Kuchibhotla arrived in the U.S. in 2005 with a visa to attend the University of Texas-El Paso. His widow said they met online when she was considering attending UTEP. But she instead chose St. Cloud State University in Minnesota after arriving here in 2007. After a six-year courtship, they married in 2012 and bought what Dumala called their “dream house” in a new Olathe subdivision. The vigil followed a somber march outside around the conference center.
Marchers held pictures, banners and shouted “We want peace,” “We love peace,” “Let us not leave our children,” “Unity is part of community, together we stand, divided we fall” and “Hate + guns = tragedy.” Many carried candles and signs reading, “We don’t support politics of hate.” Clergypeople representing Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism and Judaism held peace prayers, local TV station KSHB reported.
The shooting of Indian American IT professionals Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani by a White racist, Adam Purinton, which led to the death of Kuchibhotla and grievous injuries to Madasani, at a bar in Olathe, Kansas, last week has shocked people in the United States and India. An exclusive gofundme page for Kuchibhotla raised more than $360,000, in less than 24 hours. A separate gofundme page for Kuchibhotla and Madasani has raised more than $54,000; and a separate fundraiser for Ian Grillot, the brave American hero who stood up for the two victims, got shot in the process and is recovering in hospital, has raised more than $172,000.
The shooting has happened at a time when many have concerns about the treatment of immigrants in the U.S., some of whom feel targeted by the current administration. President Donald Trump has promised to ban certain travelers and been especially vocal about the threat posed by Islamic terrorist groups.
Ian Grillot’s sister Maggie also attended the march and the prayer meeting. She said her brother’s actions were because of how they were raised. “It doesn’t matter what your color is… Everybody’s equal,” she said.
In a letter sent out by Dr. Ajay Lodha, President of AAPI has called upon the state Governor and officials in the state of Kansas, calling the murder of Srinivas Kuchibhotla, appealing that the state ensures that federal hate crime charges are brought against the culprit, and a state anti-hate crime law passed in the name of Srinivas Kuchibhotla, which is the proper way to honor him and his family.