Ian Grillot didn’t hear what an angry man was saying as he verbally assaulted two Indian men at Austins Bar & Grill, but it was clear when he later came at them with a gun that he was targeting them.
In a meeting with reporters Tuesday, Grillot stopped short of labeling the Olathe shootings, in which an engineer for Garmin Ltd. was killed, a “hate crime.”
But “he went directly toward those men,” Grillot said of the shooter. “I can’t say it, but it seems pretty blatantly obvious what it was.”
Grillot said he would like President Donald Trump to mention the shooting in his address to Congress on Tuesday night.
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“It would be nice for him to give some kind of closure,” he said. “I know people all around the world are waiting for something, some kind of statement.”
Grillot spoke from a wheelchair at the University of Kansas Hospital, where he is recovering from wounds he received in the shootings. His voice was hoarse because the bullet that went through his right hand and into his chest affected his vocal chords.
Justin Green, the trauma doctor who treated Grillot, said the bullet traversed “the highest-priced real estate you have in your body short of the brain,” missing the heart, the trachea, the major blood vessels, the spine, the esophagus. One lung did collapse. Grillot was literally 1 centimeter away from death, Green said.
Grillot is being called a hero for his intervention in the situation that led to the death of Srinivas Kuchibhotla, 32, an Indian national in this country on a special work visa. Kuchibhotla’s Garmin co-worker, 32-year-old Alok Madasani of Overland Park, also was wounded.
“I still don’t view myself as a hero,” Grillot said. “I was just doing the right thing. We’re humans. We should stick up for each other. We’re all we got in this world.”
Grillot offered the most detailed public account yet of what happened the night of Feb. 22.
The 24-year-old had been staining shutters for a remodeling job in Grandview that day. He later dropped in at Austins, near 151st Street and Mur-Len Road, to watch the University of Kansas basketball game and to catch up with some friends over food and beer. He loved that bar and grill — still does — and he would greet Kuchibholta and Madasani when he saw them there, maybe once a week.
“I always said ‘hey’ to them because they were cool guys, I liked them,” Grillot said. “We weren’t on a first-name basis, but I don’t know a stranger.”
Grillot and his friends noticed that one bar patron was harassing the Garmin engineers. Other witnesses have said the man was asking them what kind of visa they were on and telling them to “get out of my country.”
“He caused a little bit of conflict, and one of my good friends went up and said, ‘Don’t do that,’ ” Grillot recalled. “Well, I’m not going to let my friend be in that kind of situation, just in case he wanted to do anything crazy. … I helped him get out of that situation and helped escort the gentleman out of the bar.”
While he was being showed out, Grillot said, the man asked, “So, you’re going to stick up for them and not me?”
“And that’s when I kind of knew what he was kind of insinuating,” Grillot said, noting that the man was wearing some kind of a naval shirt with medals and ribbons on it.
“He returned about 20 to 30 minutes later with a different agenda at that time, apart from just verbally harassing,” Grillot said. “And that’s when it all changed.”
It was about 7:15 p.m. Now the man appeared to be trying to conceal his face with some sort of a scarf, but everyone who saw him knew it was him. Someone shouted, “He’s back. He’s got a gun.”
Grillot, on the bar’s patio watching the game, turned to look as the shooting began inside the bar. He and others dove under a patio table, and Grillot ticked off the shots until he thought the shooter was out of bullets. That’s when he decided to pursue and subdue him. But there was at least one bullet left.
“Obviously I need to learn my counting skills a little better,” Grillot joked Tuesday.
He got right up to the shooter, close enough to place his hand on the man’s shoulder. The shooter turned and fired, and Grillot fell to the patio concrete. He didn’t know what was going on inside the bar, as other patrons tended to Kuchibhotlta and Madasani. Some also came out to the patio and found Grillot, for which he is grateful.
Grillot remained conscious all the way to the hospital, even joking with the paramedics that he forgot to pay his tab.
“If I didn’t make people laugh, it may stress me out and make me nervous, and that could have been very detrimental to my life,” he said.
The suspected gunman, Adam Purinton, 51, was arrested early the next day at an Applebee’s in Clinton, Mo., after he allegedly told a bartender there that he had just shot two Iranian men. He is charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder in the shootings.
Grillot said he feels sympathy for the shooter because “he’s got a lot of things going on in his life,” but that his actions were inexcusable.
Madasani was released from the hospital Thursday and spoke publicly at a vigil Sunday. Grillot spoke Tuesday in a feed carried worldwide by CNN, shortly after the funeral for Kuchibhotla ended in India. Earlier, he had talked to an Indian broadcaster via Skype.
Green said it was healthy for Grillot to talk about the events and that his recovery was progressing sufficiently that he could probably be released from the hospital in a couple days. The bullet will remain lodged in his chest because removing it could cause more harm than good.
Grillot said he doesn’t know what his future holds with an injured hand on “my money-making arm.”
A GoFundMe page for Grillot had reached nearly $448,000 as of Tuesday afternoon. He said he is grateful for all the good wishes and support he has received.
He also is glad to be alive and is gratified by “a new sense of hope” that has emerged in the wake of the Olathe attack.
“This whole racial divide and ethnic war that we have going on, it’s been going on too long,” he said.
“Life is too short for anger and hate. There is no reason for it.”