After Indian engineer’s death, Kansas residents say: ‘We’re not like this’

Updated on Mar 15, 2017 09:14 AM IST

The fatal shooting of Indian engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla has shocked Olathe in the US state of Kansas, with residents saying the incident doesn’t reflect the diverse nature of the city.

Laura Bauer (L) and Katy Bergen, two reporters with The Kansas City Star, talk to HT about how the local community is trying to come to grips with the killing.(Twitter)
Laura Bauer (L) and Katy Bergen, two reporters with The Kansas City Star, talk to HT about how the local community is trying to come to grips with the killing.(Twitter)
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By

Two days after the fatal shooting of Indian engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla in a bar in Olathe, the community of some 150,000 in the US state of Kansas is still trying to come to grips with the slaying that shocked many.

Kuchibothla, 32, an employee of GPS major Garmin, was shot and killed by a US Navy veteran who reportedly said “get out of my country” before he opened fire. His colleague, Alok Madasani, 32, was injured in the shooting along with Ian Grillot, a 24-year-old white man who tried to intervene.

Laura Bauer, a reporter with The Kansas City Star who lives in Olathe and covered the shooting, said a common refrain in the community was “we’re not like this”.

“At my son’s school this morning, that’s all they were talking about. All the kids knew everything about the shooting, they even knew what the shooter had said,” Bauer told Hindustan Times.

“One of the ladies who works at the school said, ‘We’re just not like that in Olathe.”

Bauer, who was at the Austins Bar & Grill shortly after the shooting, described the community as a “diverse melting pot”. It wasn’t unusual, she said, for local residents to run into people of Indian-origin while they were out and about.

“The two Indian men were regulars at the bar and were often spotted on its patio,” she said. The bartender who served them remembered their partiality to Jameson whiskey, which resulted in them being known as the “Jameson guys”.

There is also a lot of interest in the alleged shooter, 51-year-old Adam Purinton, who was arrested in Missouri state hours after the assault. There has been speculation as to whether he was paranoid about his health and whether he had a drinking problem.

Katy Bergen, another reporter of The Kansas City Star who is part of the team responsible for the extensive coverage of the shooting, said eyewitness accounts of the racial slurs uttered by Purinton led the journalists to believe this was a hate crime at a time when the authorities weren’t saying much.

“We took this very seriously and had about a dozen reporters covering the incident on Thursday. That’s why this was a big story for us, before other national and international news outlets picked it up. There’s an overall sense of dismay and confusion here,” Bergen said.

“Garmin is a popular employer in the area and that’s why the death (of Kuchibhotla) hit folks hard. Shootings aren’t common in this community.”

Bergen said she had received many emails about the Star’s coverage of the shooting. “It’s very encouraging and some have read the story about Grillot or the story about the shooter. But now a lot of readers want to know more about the two Indians,” she said.

While the official Twitter handle for Olathe city hasn’t tweeted about the shooting, there has been quite a bit of discussion about the incident in the comments sections of the Star’s reports. Readers debated whether the shooting was influenced by the anti-immigrant rhetoric of President Donald Trump and whether Purinton’s action should be described as “an act of radical white supremacist terrorism”.

“Crap like this has increased significantly since Trump has spewed his hate,” wrote reader Marc Taylor.

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