The widow of Srinivas Kuchibhotla, an Indian American electrical engineer who was shot at a bar in a Kansas City satellite town on Wednesday, says she no longer feels certain about her sense of belonging, safety or future in the US.
Sunayana Dumala said she that while she still believed in Kuchibhotla’s saying that “good things happen in America,” she wants to hear how the government will combat such “hate crimes” before she returns from her husband’s funeral in Hyderabad.
The shooting happened around 7.15 pm at the crowded Austins Bar and Grill in Olathwhere patrons were watching a basketball game on TV and enjoying a few drinks after work. Adam W Purinton, 51, who was earlier kicked out of the bar for making racist comments at Kuchibhotla and his colleague Alok Madasani returned with a gun and shot them yelling, “Get out of my country.”
Kuchbhotla was killed, while Madasani was hit in the thigh but has since been released from hospital. Customer Ian Grillot was shot in the hand and chest when he tried to stop the gunman.
The two men were regulars at the bar, where staff dubbed them the “Jameson guys” because they met there twice a week and had a partiality to the Irish whiskey, the BBC reported. They were also both 32, both from the Indian tech hub of Hyderabad and both had moved to the US to study Master’s degrees in electrical engineering. They also both preciously worked for Rockwell Collins before moving to Kansas to work for Garmin International, a maker of GPS-based tracking devices and wearables.
In Hyderabad, Kuchibhotla’s brother-in-law, Venumadhav Gajula blamed the killing on racial intolerance in the US, which he said had worsened since Donald Trump’s election.
Many Indians initially welcomed Trump’s election, seeing his calls to restrict Muslim immigration as support for their Hindu-majority country against arch rival Pakistan. But the Trump administration may also have skilled Indian workers like Kuchibhotla in mind as it considers curbing the H-1B visa program, worrying both India’s US$150 billion IT services industry and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.
“Don’t be shocked! Be angry!” Siddharth, a well-known South Indian actor who uses one name, tweeted to his 2.6 million followers in remarks echoed across social media. “Trump is spreading hate. This is a hate crime! RIP #SrinivasKuchibhotla.”
The shooting has shaken the 25,000-odd Indian Americans living in the greater Kansas City area.
Amarnath, a software engineer from the Indian port city of Vizag, told a local newspaper that racial disparity is evident after Trump came to power. Indian American IT professionals are upset by the Trump’s proposed visa curbs and many of them want to leave the country.
Samarpita Bajpai, who runs a dance company, told Reuters that she was now too scared to leave her apartment late at night.
Most Americans, who have never traveled outside the US, cannot distinguish between people from South Asian and the Middle East, said Kansas City resident Ajay Sood.
After fleeing the bar, the shooter reportedly told the bartender at another venue that he had just killed two men from the Middle East.
Purinton was charged with premeditated first-degree murder by Johnson County District Court on Thursday.