At a memorial service for Srinivas Kuchibhotla on Friday, his wife Sunayana Dumala spoke for every Indian staying in the US, including those who call the country home and those who hope to, when she laid it out in stark relief: “I have a question in my mind: Do we belong?”
Adam Purinton, a 51-year-old US navy veteran settled it for Sunayana, fatally shooting her husband in cold blood Wednesday, and wounding his colleague from the same region in India, besides an American who tried to stop the suspect.
Kuchibhotla’s body is to be flown to New Jersey on Saturday, where it will remain for a day, according to officials, before it’s flown to India for funeral services. Sunayana will be taking the body home, but she plans to return.
A visibly distraught Sunayana said she wants to return to fulfil her husband’s wishes for “me being successful in any field I choose”.
But before she does, she said, “I need an answer from the government. ...What are they going to do to stop this hate crime?”
Though the government has said it is “too early” to term the incident a hate crime, many believe the shooting to be a result of President Donald Trump’s ‘America First’ position on immigration and jobs has fueled a climate of intolerance.
The events leading to the shooting of Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani, colleagues from GPS major Garmin, at a bar in Olathe, Kansas on Wednesday, clearly pointed in that direction.
“Where are you guys from,” the shooter had asked them, according to Madasani in an account of the incident he related to Indian officials of the evening.
They ignored him.
“Are you from the Middle East,” he pressed them. But they did not want to engage him.
“Get out of my country,” he yelled at them.
The two friends had decided by then to seek help from the bar management. Purinton was escorted out but he returned shortly and opened fire, killing Kuchibhotla, the youngest in his family.
Madasani suffered bullet wounds as well, and so did another patron of the bar, Ian Grillot, who had tried to stop the shooter. He was shot in the hand and the chest and was celebrated as a hero by the Indian community in here and back home.
Purinton was apprehended miles away at another bar, in adjoining Missouri state, after he was heard bragging about shooting two middle-easterners. He has been charged with murder and attempted murder, according to local police officials.
The FBI had joined investigations but had not yet determined if it was a civil rights violation or a hate crime, which would make it a federal offence to be tried in a federal court and liable to federal penalty.