Federal hate crime charges that carry a possible death sentence have been filed against the man accused of killing one man and wounding two others at Austins Bar in Olathe.
Federal prosecutors announced Friday that Adam W. Purinton, 52, of Olathe was indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly targeting two of the victims “because of their actual and perceived race, color, religion and national origin.”
Those two men were from India and worked as engineers at Olathe-based Garmin. The third victim was shot and wounded while attempting to aid the other men.
Purinton was previously charged by Johnson County prosecutors with first-degree murder and two counts of attempted first-degree murder and is being held in the Johnson County Jail on a $2 million bond.
Authorities did not say Friday if a decision has been made on whether the state or federal prosecution will now proceed first.
Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe said Friday his office will continue with the state prosecution and continue to work with federal authorities.
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Kansas said that office will coordinate with Howe’s office on the prosecutions.
According to court documents filed in the Johnson County case, Purinton allegedly made derogatory comments to the Indian men before they were shot.
Srinivas Kuchibhotla, 32, was killed. Alok Madasani, also 32, was wounded along with 24-year-old Ian Grillot.
Purinton was arrested several hours later in Clinton, Mo.
The indictment announced Friday alleges that Purinton committed the offenses after “substantial planning and premeditation” and “attempted to kill more than one person in a single criminal episode, and knowingly created a grave risk of death to others on the scene.”
He was also indicted on a charge of using a firearm, a 9mm semi-automatic handgun, in a crime of violence.
The penalty in the federal case is either life in prison or death. A decision on whether to seek the death penalty will be made later by Justice Department officials.
Kuchibhotla’s widow, Sunayana Dumala, learned about the charges Friday afternoon in a meeting with federal prosecutors.
“I’m so glad that things are moving faster than we thought,” Dumala said. “I always had faith that justice would be served.”
She said having a federal trial would bring greater visibility to the issues of hate.
A close friend of Kuchibhotla said the charges were appropriate.
“I think the shooter was racially motivated,” said Suman Sirimulla, who was Kuchibhotla’s roommate at the University of Texas - El Paso. “He thought Srinivas was a Muslim from the Mideast when in fact he was a Hindu from India. (Purinton) knew nothing about his victim and shot him anyway.
“I believe that’s a hate crime.”
Patrons streamed in and out of the bar in droves on Friday. A sense of normalcy has returned to the establishment, said frequent customer Jeremy Herman of Olathe, who rode his bike to the bar accompanied by his wife and young child.
“We haven’t been here in (a while), but we rode back up and decided to do things over again,” Herman said.
Herman described the shooting as a terrible tragedy. He expressed relief about the hate crime indictment.
“I’m happy that they are following through (with charges),” Herman said. “The indictment is a good thing.”
Another customer, Garret Grube, of Olathe, said he wanted Puriton to face the death penalty if he is convicted.
“He deserves prison,” Grube said. “In my opinion he deserves the death penalty for what he did.”
Olathe Mayor Michael Copeland said in a written statement Friday that that shooting will always have an impact on the community.
“We believe the federal hate crime charge reflects the severity of this crime and is certainly appropriate,” Copeland said.
He said that the incident has been painful for the entire community and said “we will always hold Srinivas and his family in our hearts.”
“If the intent of this one act was to spread hate, it failed miserably,” Copeland said. “This city will continue standing as One Olathe with Srinivas’ family and friends and all of those who have suffered, and no act of hate will ever change that.”
Olathe Police Chief Steven Menke also released a written statement after the indictment was announced.
“Based on the facts of this case, I believe the hate crime and weapons charges are appropriate and warranted,” Menke said. “And I believe our community expected these charges.”
U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder, an Overland Park Republican, said in a written statement Saturday that hate has no place in America.
“While nothing can bring Srinivas back, hopefully this will bring some comfort to Sunayana and his other family members and friends who miss him so dearly,” Yoder said. “I’m glad to hear the Justice Department has worked swiftly to get these grand jury indictments and I want to commend the Olathe Police Department for their excellent work in helping federal officials in this case.”
According to the documents filed in the Johnson County case, Kuchibhotla and Madasani were sitting together in the bar’s patio area when Purinton allegedly began making statements toward them.
Madasani later told police he did not know why Purinton was making comments. He said he remembered hearing Purinton ask if their “status was legal,” according to the documents.
Grillot and another bar patron then asked Purinton to leave and he was escorted from the business by employees.
But about 30 minutes later he returned with a gun, went to the patio area and began shooting at the two Indian men, according to the documents.
Kuchibhotla was shot at least three times. He was taken to the University of Kansas Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Madasani was shot once in the leg.
Grillot then chased after the gunman, who turned and shot him in the hand and upper chest.
The gunman fled and police began an intensive manhunt.
Several hours later, police in Clinton, Mo., received a call from an employee of a restaurant after Purinton told the employee that he had shot two “Iranian men.”
Clinton police arrived and took Purinton into custody.
In Friday’s federal indictment, Purinton is charged with hate crime counts for the shootings of Kuchibhotla and Madasani.
A third count involve the use of a firearm in the shooting of all three victims.