The wife of slain Indian engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla has publicly sought answers to what she perceived was a spread in American hate crimes as mourners held a vigil at a local church for the victims of the bar shooting in which her husband died.
Kuchibhotla, 32, was killed and his colleague Alok Madasani was injured in an apparent hate crime, when Adam W. Purinton, a white who earlier served in the US Navy, shot them at the Austins Bar & Grill in Olathe, Kansas state, earlier this week.
“I have a question in my mind: Do we belong here,” Sunayana Dumala asked at a news conference on Friday at the headquarters of electronics manufacturer Garmin, where Kuchibhotla worked as an aviation systems engineer. “We’ve read many times in newspapers of some kind of shooting happening… And we always wondered, how safe we are?”
Of the two of them, she said, she was most concerned, asking her reassuring husband: “Are we doing the right thing of staying in the United States of America?”
The body of Hyderabad engineer will arrive home on Monday. Telangana Minister for NRI Affairs K.T. Rama Rao said the body will arrive by Air India flight at 9.45 p.m. and Dumala and other relatives will accompany the body.
Dumala said that she wanted to come back to their home in south Olathe, fulfilling her husband’s wishes for an American life and “me being successful in any field I choose”, Kansas City Star newspaper reported. But before making that decision, “I need an answer,” she said. “I need an answer from the government. …What are they going to do to stop this hate crime?”
Dumala said that the couple were planning on having children when he was murdered. She said her husband also would dismiss her own concerns that some people viewed them warily because of their ethnicity. “He would assure me that only good things happen to good people,” Dumala said.
Mourners filled the First Baptist Church of Olathe in Kansas state on Friday for a vigil for the victims of the shooting. “Love each other” was the overarching theme as visitors were greeted with solemn but spirit-filled musical numbers before prayers were offered for the families of Kuchibhotla, Madasani and Ian Grillot.
Grillot, an American who tried to save the Indians, remained hospitalised in fair condition. He was hit by a bullet that pierced his hand and then lodged in his chest.
Authorities on Thursday charged Purinton, 51, with first-degree murder in Kuchibhotla’s death. He also is charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder in the shootings of Madasani and Grillot.
Purinton reportedly got into an argument with the victims and hurled racial slurs. He yelled “get out of my country” and “terrorist” before shooting them.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer called the shooting tragic, but did not mention it was a hate crime, saying it was too early for the administration to attach such motivations while the investigation was underway.
“Obviously, any loss of life is tragic, but I’m not going to get into, like, to suggest that there’s any correlation I think is a bit absurd. So I’m not going to go any further than that,” Spicer said as he dismissed that the incident was linked to Trump’s stance on immigrants.
The Indian embassy in Washington said it is closely monitoring the tragic incident in Kansas and providing all help and assistance to Kuchibhotla’s family.
In a statement, embassy spokesman Pratik Mathur said the Indian Consulate in Houston is in close contact with the family of Kuchibhotla. “In their hour of grief, we are providing all help and assistance to the bereaved family. Arrangements are being made to transport his mortal remains to India.”
He said that government officials had also met the injured Alok Madasani and are ensuring his well-being.
The US government while condemning the attack, has assured us that they are conducting a thorough investigation into the matter, the statement said.
In a statement, US Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, who represents Illinois’ 8th Congressional District, said the shooting incident appeared to be “an act of hatred”.
“We must address the tide of hate in our nation to prevent more of the attacks we have witnessed, including yesterday’s shooting in Kansas,” he said.
The Indian minister expressed shock over the incident and offered condolences and support to Kuchibhotla’s family.
“Shocked & anguished by the spate of attacks in US. Vamshi last month, Srinivas & Alok now,” minister K.T. Rama Rao tweeted on Saturday. He said the state government will work with the Ministry of External Affairs to offer support to the distressed. The Minister visited the house of Srinivas in Bachupally here and consoled his parents and other family members.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee also expressed grief over the incident. The Trinamool Congress supremo said she does not support the “politics of hate.”
“Saddened and shocked at the incident of Indian engineer in Kansas USA, who was an unfortunate victim. We don’t support the politics of hate,” she said on Twitter.