A federal grand jury on Friday indicted a Kansas man on two hate crime charges in connection with a shooting in February that killed one Indian man and injured another.
The attack, in Olathe, Kansas, prompted immediate fears that it was motivated by bias after witnesses said the gunman told the two Indian men to “get out of my country” and uttered racial slurs.
Police quickly filed first-degree murder charges against Adam Purinton, 51, and identified him as the suspected shooter. The FBI then said it was investigating the shooting as a possible hate crime.
One of the Indian men shot during the attack – Srinivas Kuchibhotla, 32 – died in the hospital, police said. Alok Madasani, 32, was released from the hospital a day later. Both of the men worked for Garmin, the technology firm. A third man, Ian Grillot, was wounded when he tried to intervene.
In an indictment filed Friday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas, Purinton is charged with two hate crimes – killing Kuchibhotla and attempting to kill Madasani. The indictment states that Purinton “intentionally and specifically engaged in an act of violence, knowing that the act created a grave risk of death to a person.”
Under federal law, Purinton could face the death penalty or life in prison if convicted. The Justice Department said in a statement that a decision about whether to seek the death penalty would be made “at a later date.” Purinton also is charged with one count of causing death through use of a firearm.
“The indictment alleges that Purinton committed the offenses after substantial planning and premeditation, attempted to kill more than one person in a single criminal episode, and knowingly created a grave risk of death to others on the scene,” the Justice Department said in its statement.
Witnesses who spoke to the Kansas City Star and The Washington Post said Purinton was thought to have been kicked out of the bar before the shooting occurred.
“He seemed kind of distraught,” Garret Bohnen, a regular at the bar who was there that night, said in an interview.
Purinton 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.
The shooting inside Austin’s Bar and Grill in Olathe, about 20 miles southwest of Kansas City, reverberated across the world, as relatives of the Indian men said they worried the shooting was tied to a burgeoning climate of fear and xenophobia in America.
Pointing directly to the election of President Donald Trump, the father of one of the injured men urged parents in India “not to send their children to the United States.”
Trump, who had been criticized at the time for not speaking out against the Kansas shooting or a wave of anti-Semitic acts happening around the same time, condemned both during a speech to Congress not long after.
Purinton was taken into custody the day after the shooting in Kansas. According to a 911 call, a bartender who encountered Purinton later said he had come into her bar and said “he was on the run from police.”
The bartender said that when she asked what happened, the man told her: “He said he shot and killed two Iranian people in Olathe.”
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Mark Berman