A 51-year-old man faces first-degree murder charges after shooting three men in an Olathe, Kan., bar Wednesday night, police say, reportedly telling two of them, local Garmin engineers from India, to "get out of my country."
One of the Indian men, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, 32, died in the hospital later from his gunshot wounds.
Authorities would not classify the shooting as a hate crime, but federal law enforcement officials said Thursday they are investigating with local police to determine if it was "bias motivated."
Adam W. Purinton, 51, of Olathe, was also charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder for shooting two other patrons at Austin's Bar and Grill: Alok Madasani, 32, of Overland Park, Kan. and 24-year-old Ian Grillot, who tried to intervene.
Madasani had been released from a hospital Thursday and Grillot continued to recover.
Witnesses told the Kansas City Star and The Washington Post that Purinton was thought to have been kicked out the bar Wednesday night before the shooting took place.
"He seemed kind of distraught," Garret Bohnen, a regular at Austin's who was there that night told The Post in an interview. "He started drinking pretty fast."
He reportedly came back into the bar and hurled racial slurs at the two Indian men, including comments that suggested he thought they were of Middle Eastern descent. When he started firing shots, Grillot, a regular at the bar whom Bohnen called "everyone's friend," intervened.
In a public video released by the University of Kansas Health System, Grillot spoke from his hospital bed about the night. When he heard shots being fired, he crouched under a table. Hearing nine shots, Grillot expected the man's magazine to be empty, but soon realized he must have miscounted.
"I got behind him and he turned around and fired at me," Grillot said. The bullets went through his right hand and chest, fracturing a vertebrae and his neck, and barely missing his carotid artery.
"I'm grateful to be alive," he said. "Another half inch and I could be dead or never walk again."
He spent the night in the hospital praying that the two other men had survived the shooting, he said. When he saw Madasani enter his hospital room Thursday morning, "it put the biggest smile on my face," Grillot said. He soon found out that Madasani's wife is five months pregnant.
"I was just doing what anyone should've done for another human being," Grillot said, his eyes flooding with tears. "It's not about where he's from or his ethnicity. We're all humans. I just felt like I did what was naturally right to do."
Just after midnight Thursday, Purinton, a Navy veteran, IT specialist, and former pilot and air traffic controller, was taken into custody about 70 miles away in Clinton, Mo., authorities told the Associated Press.
Assistant Clinton Police Chief Sonny Lynch said an Applebee's bartender called police because Purinton told him he had been involved in a shooting, according to the Associated Press. He appeared before a judge in Henry County, Mo., and waived his right to fight extradition. His bond was set at $2 million, and authorities said they hope to have him back in custody in Johnson County soon. He has not filed a plea and no attorney for him could be located.
In a news conference Thursday, officials declined to go into detail regarding the shooting and could not speak to whether it might be considered a hate crime. Olathe Police Chief Steven Menke said local and federal law enforcement "will continue to investigate any and all aspects of this horrific crime."
Meanwhile, the Kansas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations called Thursday for state and federal hate crime charges to be brought against Purinton "in order to send a strong message that violence targeting religious or ethnic minorities will not be tolerated," CAIR-Kansas Board Chair Moussa Elbayoumy said in a statement. Elbayoumy added that two Kansas men were sentenced Wednesday for their roles in an unrelated hate attack on three Somali Muslims in that state.
Both men were Indian nationals, a spokesman for India's Ministry of External Affairs said. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said in a series of tweets that she had contacted the family of the man who was killed, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, in the southern city of Hyderabad and was making arrangements to have the remains sent there. "I have spoken to the father and Mr.K.K.Shastri brother of Srinivas Kuchibhotla in Hyderabad and conveyed my condolences to the family," she tweeted.
Two diplomats from the Indian consulate in Houston were "rushing" to Kansas to assist, Swaraj said.
The U.S. Embassy in New Delhi also released a statement condemning the shooting. Charge d Affaires MaryKay Carlson called it "a tragic and senseless act," adding that the U.S. is a "nation of immigrants and welcomes people from across the world to visit, work, study, and live."
Kuchibhotla and Madasani were employees on the Aviation Systems Engineering team at Garmin Ltd., headquartered in Olathe. Garmin released a statement saying it was saddened by the shootings and would have grievance counselors on-site and available for its employees in Kansas on Thursday and Friday.
According to Kuchibhotla's LinkedIn account, he held a master's degree in electrical and electronics engineering from the University of Texas at El Paso and earned his bachelor's degree at the Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University in India. Madasani's LinkedIn said he studied at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and at Vasavi College of Engineering in India.
Kavipriya Muthuramalingam, a good friend of Kuchibhotla's, said in an interview with The Post the two were part of a tight-knit group of friends who all used to work at the aerospace company Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She said Kuchibhotla was a kind, level-headed and technically skilled friend who was always smiling. She called him "one of the best people you've ever met in your life" and "the perfect example of a decent gentleman."
Muthuramalingam, who now lives in Irvine, Calif., said she and her fellow Indian friends had not yet begun to discuss any potentially racially-biased motives of the shooting. She said "it affects us all on different levels," but for now, they were all "just focusing on the fact that such a good person was lost."
She started a GoFundMe account to help relieve medical and funeral expenses for Kuchibhotla's wife Sunayana and their family.
In about eight hours Thursday, the page had raised nearly $205,000.
Maggie Grillot, whose brother was the third bar patron shot after he intervened, commented on the GoFundMe page, telling Kuchibhotla's family she was "so very sorry" for their loss.
"My brother wishes he could have done more for your family," she wrote.
Bohnen, the regular at Austin's who was there that night, and who has worked there in the past, said Kuchibhotla and Madasani would come in all the time. Though they kept to themselves, they were always friendly and willing to share a cigarette or take shots of gin with Bohnen.
Austin's staff gathered at an employee's house Wednesday night to help each other grapple with the night's events, and on Thursday, employees went into the bar to help clean up. Owner Brandon Blum wrote on the bar's web page that he hoped to re-open Austin's by Saturday. Outside the bar, flowers were left at a makeshift memorial, the Kansas City Star reported.
"We are so sorry that this happened on our premises," Blum wrote. "We have never experienced any sort of tragedy like this in our 30 years."
From his hospital bed, Grillot said he had been planning on going fishing this weekend before the shooting occurred. So after recovering, that was the first thing he looked forward to doing. He also said he hoped to get together with Madasani, "the gentleman I've now become best friends with," and meet his son once he is born.
"After last night, we're definitely going to be spending a little bit of time together," he said. "Don't think it's going to be at the bar, though. Maybe some grilling in the backyard with a beer or two."
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)