Crime

Inside Austins, a busy night of bar regulars until racial slurs, gunshots shatter peace

Austins Bar and Grill in south Olathe was crowded Wednesday night with patrons, some there to watch KU basketball, others having an after-work drink or celebrating a birthday.

On this night, employees recognized many regulars they know by name or drink. All having a typical Wednesday night at the bar tucked into a strip mall at the corner of 151st Street and Mur-Len.

Until the gunfire rang out at 7:15 Wednesday night, just after half-time of the KU game.

Details are emerging of what happened in and around Austins when a man known to some bar staffers became disgruntled in the patio area, spouting racial slurs at two men of Indian descent and then shooting them and another regular who stood up for the two.

At least one witness reportedly heard the suspect yell “get out of my country” shortly before shooting men he reportedly thought were Middle Eastern. Both men, engineers at Garmin, appear to be originally from India.

Srinivas Kuchibhotla died at an area hospital and Alok Madasani and Ian Grillot are both still hospitalized.

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Neighbors and business owners in the area are piecing together the bloodshed inside the bar and its aftermath. The fear. The replaying sound of gunshots. The confusion over why two co-workers would be targeted because they appeared to be immigrants.

“I heard a loud noise,” said Richard Kim, who at that time of the shooting was closing up his business, Q Cleaners & Alteration, which is next door to Austins. “After three and four, I’m sure it is gunfire.”

He hid until the gunfire stopped and he thought it was clear to go outside. That’s when he saw two men on the ground, being helped by other people. One man was inside the patio, the other lying just outside the patio.

Kuchibhotla and Madasani had been at the bar for about 30 minutes or so. The two work nearby at Garmin Ltd. and are regulars at Austins. Maybe once or twice a week, the co-workers could be found on the Austins patio in the early evening. Each would order a Jameson.

“We know them as the Jameson guys,” said Garret Bohnen, who has served the two. “They are super nice guys. They would sit, have a cigarette, have a few drinks and pay their tab and leave.”

Bohnen was hanging out at Austins for a while Wednesday evening and left the bar about 6:45 p.m. When he was walking out, he saw Kuchibhotla and Madasani walking in. 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.

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“Ian’s a really good guy,” Bohnen told The Star Thursday. “He’s been going there forever. We’ve always had a good time with him. He’s always one to diffuse stuff.”

And he reportedly tried to do that again Wednesday night in the moments after a patron became disgruntled and before the gunfire rang out.

Adam Purinton, who lives nearby Austins and has frequented the bar in the past, was inside the patio when witnesses say he started spouting racial slurs. Some told The Star that during a rant the man talked about recently being diagnosed with a serious illness.

“From what I understand when he was throwing racial slurs at the two gentlemen (Kuchibhotla and Madasani), Ian stood up for them,” Bohnen said. “We’re all proud of him.”

At one point, Purinton is thought to have been kicked out of the bar and then came back and started shooting.

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The suspect fled on foot as police descended onto his neighborhood just behind Austins. Purinton eventually left the Kansas City area.

About five hours later, he was having a drink at the Applebee’s at Clinton, Mo., when he told a bartender he needed a place to hide out because he had just killed two Middle Eastern men.

The bartender called police, and he was arrested without incident.

Residents in Kansas City continue to worry about the two men still recovering from their gunshot wounds.

Tyler Lape ran into Grillot at the bar just minutes before the shooting.

As usual, the two chatted about what was going on in their lives. Then Lape had to leave to let his dogs out. He expected to be back shortly.

It bothers Lape now to think about if he had stayed a few minutes longer — Lape was carrying a pistol, as he normally does. Grillot was not.

Lape has heard through friends that Grillot was shot trying to stick up for two men allegedly being harassed by Purinton, and it doesn’t surprise him.

“I can definitely say he’s the kind of guy who would step up and intervene,” Lape said.

Now, like many, Lape is waiting to hear news of Grillot’s condition. He’s been told that Grillot is “going to be alright.”

“Ian’s a tough guy,” Lape said.

So Lape is hopeful. But his thoughts are also with Kuchibhotla, who was killed in the shooting.

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