Two days after her husband was shot to death in an Olathe bar, the widow of Srinivas Kuchibhotla on Friday publicly sought answers to what she perceived was a spread in American hate crimes.
“I have a question in my mind: Do we belong?” said Sunayana Dumala, who like her husband traveled from India to attend a U.S. college.
“We’ve read many times in newspapers of some kind of shooting happening,” she said at a news conference at the headquarters of Garmin, where Kuchibhotla worked as an aviation systems engineer. “And we always wondered, how safe?”
Of the two of them, she said, she was most concerned, asking her reassuring husband: “Are we doing the right thing of staying in the United States of America?”
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Dumala is returning to India for Kuchibhotla’s funeral. She said she wanted to come back to their home in south Olathe, fulfilling her husband’s wishes for an American life and “me being successful in any field I choose.”
But before making that decision, “I need an answer,” she said. “I need an answer from the government. ...What are they going to do to stop this hate crime?”
Authorities on Thursday charged Adam W. Purinton, 51, with first-degree murder in Kuchibhotla’s death.
Purinton allegedly opened fire on Kuchibhotla and a friend, Alok Madasani of Overland Park, at Austins Bar & Grill on 151st Street. The suspect is believed to have fled Olathe and wound up at a restaurant in Clinton, Mo., where Purinton reportedly told a bartender he had just killed two Middle Eastern man.
The shootings are being investigated as a possible hate crime.
Madasani was released from a hospital Thursday. Another bar patron, Ian Grillot of Grandview, remained hospitalized Friday in fair condition. He was hit by a bullet that pierced his hand and then lodged in his chest.
University of Kansas Hospital said the bullet has not been removed because surgery would pose a greater threat.
Madasani was greeted late Friday morning to a rousing standing ovation at Garmin when he made a surprise appearance during a companywide vigil held in honor of co-worker Kuchibhotla.
More than 200 Garmin workers attended the 90-minute program at the company’s Olathe complex, where they listened to his wife share stories about they met and their lives together.
Madasani walked into the auditorium aided by a pair crutches. He was shot in the thigh during the rampage that killed his friend and injured Grillot, who had come to their aid.
“There wasn’t a dry eye in the place,” said Carly Hysell, company spokeswoman.
In the afternoon news conference, company officials, along with Olathe Mayor Michael Copeland, pledged their support for Kuchibhotla’s family and resolved to emerge from the tragedy as a community further united.
“On Wednesday night, our family and our community was torn apart by a senseless act of hate and violence,” said Cliff Pemble, Garmin president and CEO. “This has been a very difficult time as friends and co-workers of Srinivas Kuchibhotla are grieving and we cannot make sense of the situation.”
Copeland echoed the sentiment by saying the shooting would not define or divide Olathe.
“Our amazing diversity is a source of our strength and our pride and it always will be,” he said.
Kuchibhotla arrived in the United States in 2005 with a visa to attend the University of Texas-El Paso. His widow said they met online when she was considering attending UTEP. She instead chose St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, arriving in 2007.
After a six-year courtship, they married in 2012 and bought what Dumala called their “dream house” in a new Olathe subdivision. They were planning on having children when he was murdered, she said.
Dumala said that after fours years without work, she was hired in May to be a data systems developer for Intouch Solutions, an Overland Park pharmaceutical marketing agency. She credited her husband’s encouragement for boosting her confidence to land the job.
She said her husband also would dismiss her own concerns that some people viewed them warily because of their ethnicity.
“He would assure me that only good things happen to good people,” Dumala said. “Always think good.”