An Indian American lawyer, who had fallen on bad times following the closure of his law firm earlier this year, went on a mass shooting rampage in Houston, Texas, injuring nine people before being killed by police officers.
Nathan Desai — he spelt his last name DeSai — wore a military uniform emblazoned with ta Nazi swastika sign at the time of the shooting on Monday, was carrying two guns, and had left a submachine gun in his Porsche found at the site of the onslaught.
He had opened fire on morning commuters driving past him just outside his condominium complex in southwest Houston. One of his nine victims was said to in grievous condition.
Desai was killed in an exchange of fire with police.
The police have said they do not yet know his motive. Apart from the Nazi swastika on his uniform, they found one in his notebook, and items of military memorabilia including some about the American civil war. Investigators also found more weapons, not known exactly how many.
“At this point we are very open-minded in terms of motive,” acting Houston police chief Martha Montalvo has said.
His father, Prakash Desai, a retired geologist, told local media that his son had seemed troubled by the closure of a law firm he ran in partnership with another lawyer. Desai last saw his son at dinner the previous night.
Local media reports said he had not found much work since.
This is the second case of mass shooting, involving four or more victims killed or wounded, by an Indian American in recent months. Mainak Sarkar, a software developer from IIT Kharagupr, killed a professor of the University of California, Los Angeles in June accusing him of stealing a computer code he had written, and turned the gun on himself. Police subsequently discovered the body of a woman in Minnesota, where he had lived, who he had also killed. She was identified as Ashley Hasti, his estranged wife.
His motive, for killing the professor at least, was clear.
But investigators of the Houston shooting remained unclear about Desai’s reasons. And friends and acquaintances told local reporters they were surprised to hear about the Swastika sign and his military uniform.
They described him as generally “peaceful” and “generous”. He played in a band when he was a prosecutor in Dallas county, which was his first job as a lawyer.
He had started a law firm with Kenneth McDaniel 12 years ago. They went out of business in February. “We made a mutual decision, roughly in February, to simply no longer operate as a partnership for economic reasons,” McDaniel has said.
Desai, 46, is reported to have started showing signs of erratic behaviour in recent months. The property manager of the complex he lived in told Eyewitness News Desai seemed paranoid and believed someone was “out to get him”.
Early August, Desai pulled a gun on men working on the roof the building, and called the police to complain someone was trying to break into his condo. Last week, he called with a plumbing problem, but won’t let anyone in to fix it.