‘Do we belong?’: Slain Kansas techie’s wife wants answers
Aviations engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla’s widow Sunayana Dumala said she wanted the American government to tell her what it will do to stop “this hate crime”Updated: Mar 15, 2017 09:15 IST
Aviations engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla’s widow Sunayana Dumala may have spoken for every Indian in the US and, in fact, every immigrant in the politically charged atmosphere of the country, when she said on Friday: “I have a question in my mind: Do we belong?”
Adam Purinton, a 51-year-old US Navy veteran who might have been too drunk to know his mind or woefully uninformed to make a considered choice, sought to settle that question for Dumala, fatally shooting her husband in cold blood on Wednesday and wounding his colleague, mistaking them for Middle Easterners. He shot and wounded another white man who tried to intervene.
Authorities are investigating the killing as a possible hate crime.
Addressing a news conference at Garmin, where Kuchibhotla had worked, Dumala said she planned to return to the US after the funeral in India. But before that, she added, “I need an answer…I need an answer from the government...What are they going to do to stop this hate crime?”
But the White House dismissed any suggestion US President Donald Trump’s rhetoric could have led to the killing, as has been suggested by some. “Any loss of life is tragic,” said press secretary Sean Spicer on Friday. “But I’m not going to get into, like, that kind of - to suggest that there’s any correlation (to the president’ rhetoric) I think is a bit absurd.”
When Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani, colleagues from the nearby headquarters of GPS major Garmin, settled down for a drink after work at a bar in Olathe, Kansas, on Wednesday, as they had done several times before, a white man came over.
“Where are you guys from?” he asked them, Madasani related to Indian officials later, in an account of the evening that will likely remain etched in his mind his whole life. They ignored him.
“Are you from the Middle East?” Purinton pressed them, and then told them to “get out of my country”.
The two friends had decided by then to seek help from the bar’s management. Purinton was escorted out but he returned shortly and opened fire, killing Kuchibhotla. Madasani suffered bullet wounds and so did another patron, Ian Grillot, who tried to stop the shooter. He was shot in the hand and chest and has been celebrated as a hero by the Indian community 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 was charged with murder and attempted murder, according to police officials.
The FBI joined the investigation but has not yet determined if it is 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.
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 the funeral. Dumala will take the body home, but she plans to return.
She wants to come back to her home in Kansas, she said, to fulfil her husband’s wishes for “me being successful in any field I choose”.