Residents in the Walnut Creek subdivision in south Olathe saw Adam W. Purinton out mowing his lawn Wednesday afternoon.
A neighbor who’d been gone for about a week just got home and waved at the Navy veteran, figuring they’d probably catch up soon.
But hours later, Purinton was on the run from Olathe authorities after they say he shot up the nearby Austins Bar & Grill, killing one and injuring two.
Before midnight Wednesday, neighbors said police were there looking for Purinton, who some said was reclusive but who didn’t appear dangerous. Using a large loudspeaker, authorities called out to him: “Adam, this is the Olathe police. We need you to call...’
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Purinton, 51, was later apprehended about 80 miles away in Clinton, Mo., after he told a bartender at an Applebee’s that he needed a place to hide out after he’d just killed two Middle Eastern men, The Star has learned.
“I never saw his temper or anything like that,” said Michael Shimeall, who moved to Purinton’s neighborhood in 2009 and became friendly with the man who some say could be reclusive. “It’s very sad. Very sad what happens to some people and that he would go off that way.”
On his cul-de-sac on West 155th Terrace off Lindenwood Drive, Purinton had a reputation as both a troubled man and a typical helpful neighbor. He could often be seen outside, beer in hand, and would complain about his health and grieve about his father’s death about a year ago.
“He’d come out and talk, but he was usually pretty inebriated,” said Beverly Morris, who with her husband has lived next door to Purinton for nearly two decades. “I’ve never seen him drink hard liquor, but lots of beer.”
But he also could be a good neighbor.
When the Shimealls’ tree blew down in a windstorm, he helped them remove it. He’d help neighbors dig out after snowstorms. He’d sharpen Carol Shimeall’s knives. He’d also share some of the organic crops he grew in his back yard.
Purinton would talk to Michael Shimeall, also a veteran, about his health. He told him about going to the VA once a week for a while because of high levels of iron in his blood.
“He’d be very emotional about his health,” Shimeall said. “I just had a feeling he didn’t understand what was happening to him. His words were, ‘They just take my blood and they throw it away. I’m worthless.’ ”
Shimeall told him, “No, you’re not. They’re just trying to help you.”
Purinton recently showed Shimeall paperwork that indicated his iron levels had come down dramatically.
Neighbors never knew Purinton to talk about politics or race. He was known to keep a handgun hanging from a hook by the front window. But neighbors, including Shimeall, said they never felt threatened or saw any violent tendency.
Purinton was extremely close to his father, neighbors said. The two would go fishing and spend a great deal of time together. Purinton also was proud of his time in the Navy and the ships he served on.
“He had pictures of the ships in his house and a lot of things from the Navy on the walls,” Shimeall said.
Morris said Purinton was an air traffic controller in Olathe when they first moved into the neighborhood. Since then, she said, he’s had numerous jobs, most recently at a nearby liquor store and at an IT business.
“He went to work for several months,” she said. “Every morning he was dressed in khakis, and came in late at night. But that job apparently went away, too.”
A U.S. Navy spokeswoman confirmed that Purinton served in the Navy but said no further details were readily available.
An online site that helps Navy veterans connect with former crew members showed an Adam Purinton had registered as being on the USS Long Beach CGN-9 — the Navy’s first nuclear-powered surface warship — from April 1988 to October 1990.
Purinton’s rank was listed as OS2, or Operations Specialist 2nd Class. An operations specialist operates radar, navigation and communications equipment in combat information centers on the ship’s bridge.
In a 2008 court document, Purinton listed his employment as the federal government on Rogers Road in Olathe, which is the site of the Kansas City Air Route Traffic Control Center, one of 20 Federal Aviation Administration area control centers in the country.
FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory told The Star that Purinton had worked for the FAA but left in 2000. She said she could not confirm or deny the location where he worked.
FAA records show that Purinton had a private pilot certificate that was issued in 1991 and a control tower operator certificate issued in 1994. The control tower certificate was limited to Wichita Mid-Continent Airport in Wichita, now called the Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport. Property records indicate Purinton lived in Wichita in the 1990s. Cory said both certificates had long expired.
Gary Glauberman of Overland Park, who worked with Purinton nearly a decade ago at Time Warner Cable, called the news of Purinton’s arrest “a mind-blowing thing.” In the years he knew Purinton, he said he never heard him make any threatening or racist remarks.
“He was just a guy,” Glauberman said. “... He never talked about guns that I remember, he never talked about race, religion or anything like that.”
That’s why so many who knew him struggle to understand what went wrong.
The neighbors are left with many questions.
“I guess my personal question is, could there have been something more I could have done to help him?” Michael Shimeall said. “Other than listening to him. … It’s just a troubled time for our country. A sad time.”