First-degree murder charge filed in possible hate crime shooting at Olathe’s Austins bar
An Olathe man who reportedly told two strangers — Garmin engineers originally from India — to “get out of my country” before he shot them in an Olathe bar was charged Thursday with first-degree murder in the death of one of the victims.
Adam W. Purinton, 51, allegedly shot Srinivas Kuchibhotla, 32; Alok Madasani, 32, of Overland Park, and another bar patron, 24-year-old Ian Grillot of Grandview.
Kuchibhotla died at a hospital after the 7:15 p.m. shooting in Austins Bar & Grill near 151st Street and Mur-Len Road.
Purinton also is charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder in the shootings of Madasani and Grillot. Witnesses said Grillot was shot after he intervened.
Madasani was released Thursday from a hospital, where Grillot is improving. The two even talked with each other Thursday.
In a video released by the University of Kansas Health System, Grillot spoke about how he jumped at the shooter.
“It wasn’t right, and I didn’t want the gentleman to potentially go after somebody else,” Grillot said. (See sidebar.)
Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe announced the charges against Purinton during a press conference at Olathe police headquarters.
He was joined by federal law enforcement officials who said that they are investigating in conjunction with Olathe police to determine if the shooting was a bias-motivated hate crime in violation of the victims’ civil rights.
At least one witness reportedly heard the man yell “get out of my country” shortly before shooting Kuchibhotla and Madasani. The man fled on foot. A manhunt ensued. Five hours later, Purinton reportedly told a bartender at a bar in an Applebee’s in Clinton, Mo., that he needed a place to hide out because he had just killed two Middle Eastern men, The Star has learned.
The bartender called police, and Purinton was arrested without incident, Assistant Clinton Police Chief Sonny Lynch said. Purinton was not armed.
“It was a tragic and senseless act of violence,” said Olathe Police Chief Steven Menke.
After his arrest in Clinton, Purinton — a Navy veteran, IT specialist, former pilot and air traffic controller who lives in a comfortable suburban home — was booked into the Henry County Jail.
Purinton appeared before a judge in Henry County and waived his right to fight extradition. Bond was set at $2 million.
It was not known how soon he would be returned to Johnson County.
Both Howe and Eric Jackson, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Kansas City office, cautioned they were too early in their investigation to assign a motive or call it a hate crime.
“We’re less than 24 hours in,” Howe said. “We want to be sure of the facts versus speculation.”
Jackson said it was not “uncommon” for joint federal and local law enforcement investigations into possible hate crimes.
Tom Beall, acting U.S. attorney for the District of Kansas, said his office would be evaluating the case as more facts are gathered in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Justice.
“There will probably be more to come later from us,” Beall said.
Kuchibhotla and Madasani were employees of the Aviation Systems Engineering team at Garmin Ltd., headquartered in Olathe.
Garmin officials broke the news to employees in an email Thursday morning.
“Unfortunately, two associates on our Aviation Systems Engineering team, Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani, were shot. We are devastated to inform you that Srinivas passed away and Alok is currently recovering in the hospital,” Garmin said in the email.
In a public statement, Garmin said, “We’re saddened that two Garmin associates were involved in last night’s incident, and we express our condolences to the family and friends of our co-workers involved. Garmin will have grievance counselors on-site and available for its associates today and tomorrow.”
Kuchibhotla posted on LinkedIn in 2014 that he managed helicopter programs. He had a master’s degree in electrical and electronics engineering from the University of Texas at El Paso. He earned his bachelor’s degree at the Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University in India.
A 2014 post on LinkedIn said Madasani was an aviation program coordinator manager at Garmin. He studied at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and at Vasavi College of Engineering in India.
Two GoFundMe pages have been set up for the Garmin workers and a third for Grillot.
One, for Kuchibhotla’s family, said “Srini was the kindest person you would meet, full of love, care and compassion for everyone. He never uttered a word of hatred, a simple gossip, or a careless comment. He was brilliant, well mannered and simply an outstanding human being.
“His wife Sunayana and his family are now faced with incredible grief and a multitude of expenses.
“We’ve set up this fund to help them with the funeral expenses and other ongoing grief/recovery support costs. This includes the very expensive process of carrying his mortal remains back to India, so his parents can say goodbye one last time to their beloved son.”
By Thursday evening, contributors had exceeded the $150,000 goal for Kuchibholta’s fund.
The other GoFundMe page was set up by a western Shawnee man who was not personally connected to either of the victims or their families but was upset about what appeared to be “a vicious hate crime.”
“Madasani will likely face extensive medical bills and the family of Kuchibhotla will now have to deal with the death of their beloved son, both financially and emotionally,” Brian Eric Ford wrote on the page.
“Let’s send a message that we will support those who are targeted — and stand against all who wish to spread hate — by raising funds to help the victims of this horrendous act of senseless violence.”
Ford said he planned to present the money raised to Garmin. Contributors had pledged more than $19,000 of the $50,000 goal by Thursday evening.
A third victim, Ian Grillot, was shot in the hand and chest. A GoFundMe site had been set up for him and had raised $67,000 of its $80,000 goal.
On Wednesday night, Kuchibhotla and Madasani had been at the bar for about 30 minutes or so. Around that same time, Grillot, a sometimes daily regular who either stops for a drink or grabs something to eat, was in the parking lot.
“Ian’s a really good guy,” said Garret Bohnen, who has served him at Austins. “He’s been going there forever. We’ve always had a good time with him. He’s always one to defuse stuff.”
Witnesses said Purinton was drinking and spouting racial slurs at Kuchibhotla and Madasani. At one point, Purinton is thought to have been kicked out of the bar before coming back and shooting.
Grillot stepped in and was shot.
The Kansas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations on Thursday called for prosecutors to file hate crime charges against Purinton at both the state and federal level.
Moussa Elbayoumy, board chairman of the Kansas chapter, said that doing so would “send a strong message that violence targeting religious or ethnic minorities will not be tolerated.”
He noted that two southwest Kansas men were sentenced in federal court on Wednesday in connection with a hate attack on three Somali Muslims outside an African grocery store in Dodge City in 2015.
And CAIR’s national headquarters in Washington, D.C., has seen an unprecedented increase in hate incidents targeting Muslims and other minority groups since the Nov. 8 election, Elbayoumy said. Indeed, he said, a report about to be released on Islamophobia in America is expected to show that last year was the worst on record for incidents of bias toward mosques.
Olathe Mayor Michael Copeland on Thursday said he was shocked and saddened.
“We pray that those in mourning will find comfort in the outpouring of love and support across our community,” Copeland said.
Austins remained closed Thursday, a day after the shooting.
Owner Brandon Blum, family and staff gathered there Thursday afternoon.
In a statement later Thursday, Blum expressed empathy for the victims and their families.
“We are so sorry that this happened on our premises,” Blum said. “We have never experienced any sort of tragedy like this in our 30 years. For all of our loyal friends and patrons, we want to thank you for your ongoing support.”
Blum said the bar would re-open Saturday to give staff and patrons some time to process the shooting.
“We will be working diligently doing anything we can to support and help the parties that were involved,” he said.
Flowers adorned a makeshift memorial in front of the bar as a reminder of the tragedy.
Star reporters Glenn E. Rice and Steve Vockrodt contributed to this report.