Alok Madasani walked with crutches to the podium Sunday at a vigil for the victims of the gun violence in Olathe that killed his best friend and left him and another man injured.
But Madasani, released from the hospital, put aside his crutches as he addressed an audience of several hundred people at the vigil sponsored by the India Association of Kansas City at the Ball Conference Center, 21350 W. 153rd St. in Olathe.
“I wish it was a dream,” Madasani said of the attack Wednesday night at Austins Bar & Grill that left Srinivas Kuchibhotla dead. Both men, both 32, were engineers at Garmin in Olathe.
“One thing that I really wanted to emphasize is, the main reason why I am here is that’s what my best friend, Srinivas, would have done,” Madasani said. “He would have been here for me, and that’s what I’m doing right now.”
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Madasani described a casual evening at a hangout he and Kuchibhotla had frequented for more than two years. They used to go after work. They had fun.
“What happened that night was a senseless crime and that took away my best friend,” Madasani said of the man who befriended him in 2008. Kuchibhotla picked Madasani up at his apartment every work day for six months to take him to work.
“Not even a single time did he express that this is getting tough,” Madasani said. “He waited till I bought a car. That’s the kind of guy he was — is. I don’t even want to use ‘was’ because we were friends for nine years and the memories are so fresh.”
Adam W. Purinton, 51, of Olathe, is charged in Johnson County District Court with first-degree murder and two counts of attempted first-degree murder. The FBI is also investigating the case as a possible federal hate crime. He allegedly told his victims, two of whom were from India, to “get out of my country.”
Purinton was arrested hours later in Clinton, Mo. A tape of a call to 911, obtained by KSHB-TV, confirms what The Star reported on Thursday, that Purinton had claimed to have killed two Middle Eastern men.
“OK, so I’m a bartender at Applebees and I had this guy come into my bar and he told me that he had done somthing really bad and he was on the run from the police, and he asked if he could stay with me and my husband,” the caller tells a dispatcher. “He wouldn’t tell me what he did. I kept asking him and he said he would tell me if I agreed to let him stay with me. I finally got him to tell me. He said he shot and killed two Iranian people in Olathe, and I looked it up on the news and there was this shooting like three hours ago...”
Madasani on Sunday called the shooting “an isolated incident that doesn’t reflect the true sprit of Kansas, the Midwest and the United States,” generating applause from the overflow audience in the conference room. “The United States of America, for us, has been one of selfless people, hardworking people.... What happened that night was something we all wish didn’t happen, but it happened.”
Ian Grillot, a 24-year-old man, intervened and was also shot. He continued to improve while hospitalized, the University of Kansas Health System said in an update Sunday.
“This weekend has been tough,” Grillot was quoted as saying. “I did get my chest-tube out, and that feels much better, but it is hard to describe how sore I feel.”
Grillot was shot in the hand and chest while watching basketball with friends. Grillot and his family were quoted as expressing their gratitude to the community for the ongoing outpouring of support. The health system said Grillot will remain hospitalized for a while longer and then will face a recovery involving physical therapy.
Madasani also told of another man who came to his side after he was shot. The man removed his own shirt and used it to help stanch the bleeding.
“The guys in the ambulance told me that whose shirt that was was what probably saved your life,” he said.
Madasani asked for tolerance of diversity and respect for humanity.
“I hope I’m not asking too much, but that’s what my friend would have wanted.”
The vigil, which lasted more than an hour, followed a somber march outside around the conference center. There were many people of Indian descent but also many others from across the metropolitan area. “Hate + guns = tragedy,” read one sign.
Inside, clergypeople representing Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism and Judaism said prayers. Olathe Mayor Mike Copeland, Olathe Police Chief Steve Menke, Kansas state Sen. Rob Olson, U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder and Kansas Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer also spoke about union and respect.
“You are our brothers and our sisters,” Copeland told the audience, “and make no mistake, when you grieve we all grieve... We will not let one act of evil separate us or divide us.”