WASHINGTON, United States, Feb 27 – Hundreds of people marched and prayed in the Midwestern US city where an Indian expatriate was killed and another wounded in a suspected hate crime that has prompted calls for action.
Indians at home and in the United States have expressed shock at Wednesday’s shooting in the Kansas community of Olathe that saw a drunk white man scream racial slurs and allegedly open fire on two young Indian engineers, killing one.
Alok Madasani, the 32-year-old Indian engineer who survived, told a prayer vigil Sunday that he was suffering profound loss after the death of his dear friend of nine years.
“It’s hard to believe he is not with me, not with us anymore,” Madasani said.
“What happened that night is something we all wish didn’t happen, but it happened.”
Throngs of concerned citizens and mourners marched through the Kansas City suburb in memory of the slain man, 32-year-old Srinivas Kuchibhotla, and in celebration of Madasani’s survival.
The event also honored Ian Grillot, a white bar patron being hailed a hero for trying to help. He is being treated in hospital for gunshot wounds in the chest and hand.
Bundled in winter coats, marchers stretched for blocks down a sidewalk near the city’s Ball Conference Center, holding posters with messages about peace and unity, and chanting slogans such as “Together we stand, divided we fall!” and “Unity is part of community!”
During the rally, the city of Olathe tweeted: “We stand together in our grief; in our support of the victims, their family & friends. And always, we stand together. #OneOlathe.”
Madasani, who had been taken to the hospital after the shooting, was greeted with applause when he hobbled into the room on crutches, and later told the audience about how his friend, whom he would meet at the bar almost weekly, was “always making sure the people around him were happy.”
The ceremony, which opened with Hindu, Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh prayers, was held at the packed community center, with a large overflow crowd forced to stand outside. It ended with the audience lighting candles and singing John Lennon’s “Imagine.”
– ‘Shameful’ incidents –
During the attack, the alleged suspect, Adam Purinton, 51, reportedly screamed racial slurs and told the two Indian men, who had been living in the United States for several years and working as aviation systems engineers for GPS manufacturer Garmin, to “Get out of my country.”
He was arrested after police got a tip from a bartender in a nearby town that the suspect boasted of having killed two Middle Eastern men, The Kansas City Star reported.
Purinton has been charged with premeditated first-degree murder and two counts of attempted premeditated first-degree murder and is being held on a $2 million bond.
The FBI is trying to determine if the shooting was a hate crime.
India’s Information and Broadcasting minister reacted harshly to the attack, stating that the United States must “unequivocally respond and condemn such incidents.”
“USA should respond to this incident. American President and people of America, they should come out openly to condemn such actions… and then take strongest action,” M Venkaiah Naidu was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India.
A GoFundMe online fundraiser page was quickly set up after the shooting, and as of Sunday had collected more than $630,000, much of it in small contributions of $5 and $10.
The money is to help with the funeral expenses “and other ongoing grief / recovery support costs” for Kuchibhotla’s widow Sunayana Dumala.
Meanwhile, Madasani’s father Jagan Mohan Reddy, a chief engineer with the Telangana state government, told AFP he and his wife would spend at least a week in the US before “taking stock of what to do (next).”
“They lost a dear friend (Kuchibhotla) in the attack but somehow, by God’s grace, my son survived,” Reddy said.