Kansas lawmakers will consider a proposal to enact a hate crime law two weeks after the murder of an Indian engineer in Olathe drew international attention.
Sen. David Haley, a Democrat from Kansas City, Kan., said that he introduced the bill before the tragedy in Olathe, but that the murder of Srinivas Kuchibhotla, a 32-year-old engineer from India, has given the issue a greater focus.
“This is the second time in three years where Kansas is in the national or world spotlight for a hate crime,” Haley said, noting the 2014 shootings at the Jewish Community Center and nearby Village Shalom care center in Overland Park that left three people dead.
In the latest incident, Adam W. Purinton, 51, has been charged with fatally shooting Kuchibhotla and wounding Alok Madasani, a 32-year-old Indian national, reportedly because he thought they were Middle Eastern. Another man, Ian Grillot, 24, was also wounded when he came to their defense.
The FBI is investigating the attack as a hate crime.
Kansas has no hate crime law, so Purinton will face no additional hate crime charge on top of the first-degree murder and attempted murder charges at the state level.
Senate Bill 128 would change that. Haley said that a person convicted of a hate crime would face a presumptive doubling of his sentence under the bill.
Kansas law does enable judges, when sentencing, to consider it an aggravating factor if a crime was “motivated entirely or in part by the race, color, religion, ethnicity, national origin or sexual orientation of the victim.”
The Senate Judiciary Committee will review the bill at a hearing Wednesday. Haley said that he has introduced similar legislation in the past, but it has failed to move forward.
After the Feb. 22 shooting, Gov. Sam Brownback met with Anupam Ray, consul general of India’s Houston consulate.
Haley said that he received a phone call from Ray, who “was very interested in Kansas’ law on this.”
Hate crimes carry stiffer penalties in Missouri. The Missouri Highway Patrol tracks the number each year, counting 102 total offenses in 2015, the most recent year for which data is available.