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Hate crime in Kansas leaves Indian community in fear.

Adam Purinton is being charged with murder and attempted murder after shooting two Indian Engineers in Olathe, KS.

Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani were regulars at the Austin’s Bar and Grill in Olathe, Kansas.  On Wednesday, February 22, 2017, just like many other nights, Kuchibhotla and Madasani went to Austin’s to hangout after work.  Kuchibhotla and Madasani, both originally from India, were employees at Garmin, a GPS navigation and communications device company, as engineers.  That Wednesday night started off as a peaceful one, as Kuchibhotla and Madasani enjoyed drinks after work.  The peaceful night took a turn for the worst when Kuchibhotla was shot and killed by another patron, Adam W. Purinton.

“Witness who were at the bar that night recall Purinton yelling out racial slurs to Kuchibhotla and Madasani, and telling them to, ‘get out of my country!’”

Witness who were at the bar that night recall Purinton yelling out racial slurs to Kuchibhotla and Madasani, and telling them to, “get out of my country!”  Madasani, in a phone interview told The New York Times that Purinton inquired about what visa they were currently under and if they were in the United States illegally.  They informed him that they were in the United States legally.  Afterwards Kuchibhotla and Madasani did not entertain any more of Purinton’s rude and distasteful comments.  Witnesses complained and Purinton was eventually escorted out without incident.  Purinton returned shortly after being asked to leave and opened fire.  As a result, Kuchibhotla was shot and later died, Madasani was wounded, and Ian Grillot, a bystander who tried to stop Purinton, was also wounded.  Purinton was later arrested at an Applebee’s restaurant where he confessed to the shooting to a bartender, who later called the police.

Purinton has been charged with “premeditated first-degree murder and two counts of attempted premeditated first-degree murder.  Reports claim that Purinton thought he was “shooting at people who were from the Middle East.”  In the beginning of the investigation surrounding the attack, authorities were looking into the possibility of labeling this terrible attack as a hate crime.  At that time they were not sure if they had enough evidence to view this as a hate crime.  The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) defines a hate crime as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.”  On the FBI’s official website, they noted that hate crimes were their top priority in their Civil Rights program.

Moussa Elbayoumy, the board chairman for the Kansas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, believes that the government should begin looking into filing hate crime charges against Purinton.  Elbayoumy believes the charges will “send a strong message that violence targeting religious or ethnic minorities will not be tolerated.”  When looking at what constitutes a hate crime, intent is the biggest factor. Evidence must prove that the intent behind the act was motivated by “race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender identify, or disability of any person.”  As it relates to the disturbing acts committed by Purinton, evidence would have to show that his reason for shooting Kuchibhotla and Madasani was one that was racially motivated.  On Friday, February 24th, Eric Jackson, an FBI Special Agent in Charge, told NPR that they do not have the evidence to show intent behind Purinton’s actions at that time.  As of Tuesday, February 28th, BBC stated that the FBI confirmed that it is investigating the shooting as a hate crime.

“Kuchibhotla’s widow, Sunayana Dumala, told her husband before his death that she was worried about the rise in potential violence against foreigners in the United States.”

Kuchibhotla’s widow, Sunayana Dumala, told her husband before his death that she was worried about the rise in potential violence against foreigners in the United States.  Dumala stated, “I told him many a times, ‘Should we think about going back? Should we think about going to a different county?’”  Despite her concerns, Kuchibhotla reassured her that everything would be okay.  Dumala’s concerns unfortunately became a reality when she found out that her husband did not survive the shooting.  Dumala is calling for action to put a stop to hate crimes and is demanding for the government to provide an answer for those living in fear.  Dumala states, “I need an answer, I need an answer from the government.  I need an answer for everyone out there.  Not just for my husband…but for everyone, all those people of any race.”

This horrible incident has left the community of Olathe, Kansas in a state of shock.  The Indian population in Olathe is a growing one and in light of the recent acts, the question of safety is a big concern.  The Indian government has responded to the incident.  Sushma Swaraj, the minister of external affairs in India, sent diplomats from the Indian Consulate in Houston to the community of Olathe, Kansas to offer support.  Indian news stations are also reporting on the incident and are now questioning whether the United States is still a safe place for Indians.  The father of Masasani, Jaganmohan Reddy, in an interview told Hindustan Times, “Something has changed in the United States. Such things are not good for the Indian community living here.”  He is urging his son to return home in light of the shooting.  He is also advising parents in India not to send their children to the United States because of the violence that is occurring.  Information Technologies (IT) companies in India often send skilled employees to the United States to work as IT professionals.  About 70% of visas that are issued to Indians are to those who work in IT related departments.

“When looking at incidents motivated by hate, Anti-Immigrant and Anti-Black were among the highest.”

The White House released a statement on Tuesday, February 28th, saying that the president does not condone the acts that were taken by Purinton or any acts that are racially or religiously motivated.  According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the rise in hate groups has increased within the past two years.  Since the November 2016 elections reports have shown that the number of hate crimes have continued to rise.  SPLC collected reports relating to harassment and intimidation from November 9, 2016, to December 12, 2016.  The data used was gathered from social media outlets, news sources, and reports made directly to SPLC.  The results were shocking.  When looking at incidents motivated by hate, Anti-Immigrant and Anti-Black were among the highest.  SPLC even took their data a step further by looking at reported incidents that were made in reference to “Donald Trump, his campaign slogans, or his infamous remarks about sexual assault.”  Based on that break down, Anti-Women were the highest, followed by Anti-Immigrant and Anti-Black.

During President Donald Trump’s speech to Congress on Tuesday, February 28th, the President condemned the acts of hatred that took place in Kansas.  While acknowledging intolerance for hate crimes is something that needs to be done, it may not be enough.  With the number of hate groups and hate crimes on the rise, immediate action needs to be taken in order to restore the feeling of safety in the groups of individuals who are targets to such horrendous crimes.

“The community came together February 24th, at First Baptist Church in remembrance of Kuchibhotla, a life that was taken too soon.”

The community of Olathe, Kansas, while still in a state of shock, is trying to remain strong as a community after such a senseless act of violence.  Mayor Michael Copeland told The New York Times, “As a community, we are still shocked, devastated, and angry.”  The community came together February 24th, at First Baptist Church in remembrance of Kuchibhotla, a life that was taken too soon.  This incident, while very devastating, is bringing more awareness to the propensity of hate crimes happening in the United States.  Hopefully new measures will be implemented in order to protect those affected.

In the United States, there are currently 45 states, including the District of Columbia, that have laws against hate crimes.  If the FBI continues its investigation of this horrific shooting as a crime of hate, Purinton could potentially receive a prison sentence ranging from ten years to life.

Amaka Madu, Senior Staff Writer Emeritus
About Amaka Madu, Senior Staff Writer Emeritus (18 Articles)
Amaka Madu is a 2017 graduate of Campbell Law School and served as a Senior Staff Writer for the Campbell Law Observer. She is originally from Raleigh, North Carolina and graduated from The University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 2013 with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Political Science. Following her first year of law school, Amaka interned at the North Carolina Court of Appeals with Honorable Judge Tyson and during the second half of her summer, she participated in the Baylor Academy of the Advocate study abroad program in St. Andrews, Scotland. Amaka also currently serves as Secretary for Campbell University’s Black Law Student Association.
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