A US Navy veteran has been sentenced to three consecutive life sentences on hate crime charges for killing Indian engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla and wounding two others after he thought they were Iranians at a suburban Kansas City bar last year.
Adam Purinton of Olathe shot and killed Kuchibhotla, and wounded two others – Indian national Alok Madasani and Kansas resident Ian Grillot – at Austins Bar & Grill in Olathe, Kansas, in February 2017.
Earlier this year, he pleaded guilty in federal court to hate crime and firearm offenses arising out of the shooting.
At his federal guilty-plea hearing, Purinton admitted in open court that he targeted and shot Kuchibhotla and Madasani because of their race, colour, and national origin, and that he shot Grillot during an attempt to flee the scene of the crime.
Purinton had also pleaded guilty in state court to charges of murder and attempted murder, and has been sentenced to a term of life imprisonment in state prison.
The sentences handed down in federal court yesterday will run consecutively to another life sentence 53-year-old Purinton previously received for first-degree murder in Johnson County District Court.
“The crimes at issue in this case are detestable,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said.
“The defendant acted with clear premeditation in murdering one man, and attempting to murder a second man, simply because of their race, religion, and national origin. As a result, a promising young life has been tragically cut short, and other lives have been filled with suffering.”
Sessions said that while the “irreparable harm” that Purinton has done cannot be undone, “some measure of justice for the victims’ families has been achieved.”
The widow of Kuchibhotla told the US Navy veteran that her husband was always “respectful to others” and would have helped him understand that not every brown-skinned person is evil but is contributing to America’s growth.
“My husband was more than what you chose to address him as. Always kind, caring, and respectful to others. Srinu and I came to the US of America full of dreams and aspirations…Now, my American Dream – and that of Srinu’s – is broken,” Sunayana Dumala said read out in court Wednesday as Purinton was sentenced, calling her husband by his informal name.
Addressing Purinton in her victim-impact statement, Dumala said if Purinton could have kept his anger inside and spoken to her husband softly, “Srinu would have been more than happy to share his background and help you understand that not every brown skinned person is suspicious or evil, but kind, smart and contributing to America.”
She said Purinton instead chose to rage and bully in anger and when he was stopped, he decided to take their lives.
“…(U)se the time that is being given to you to educate yourself and inform others who are still out in the open and stop them from killing innocent people as you did – choosing violence over kindness,” she added.
US Attorney Stephen McAllister for the District of Kansas said a person should be able to live without fear of becoming a victim of hate crimes irrespective of “who you are, what you believe, or how you worship.”
The killing of Kuchibhotla had shaken the Indian community and led to heightened fear and anxiety among the South Asian population in general and the Indian community in particular, about their safety. Concerns grew in the community about misplaced perceptions among individuals over immigration status and ethnicity of Indians and South Asians in America.
Purinton, yelled, “Get out of my country,” before shooting Kuchibhotla, who later died from injuries sustained in the attack.
Kuchibhotla and Madasani worked as engineers at Garmin, a tech company that makes GPS devices.
Hours after the shooting, Purinton stated over the phone to a friend, and later in person to a bartender, that he had just killed some Iranians.
Purinton admitted that he shot Kuchibhotla and Madasani, attempting to kill both men, because of their race, colour, religion, and national origin.