Widow of Austins shooting victim says hate crime charges brought ‘relief in my heart’

Two days after her husband was murdered at Austins Bar & Grill, Sunayana Dumala stood before a hushed roomful of reporters and asked, “Do we belong?”

On Friday, following news of federal hate charges being filed against the alleged killer of Srinivas Kuchibhotla, she said she was closer to knowing the answer.

“I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support I received from different corners” in the months after Kuchibhotla’s death, Dumala said. “It made us believe we do belong.”

Dumala, an immigrant from India who lives in Olathe, told The Star that she hopes a federal trial in the prosecution of shooting suspect Adam W. Purinton will help bring attention to the need to address bigotry against foreign-born residents of America and to end hate crimes nationwide.

The federal charges brought “a lot of relief in my heart,” Dumala said. “I got to hear what I wanted to hear.

"I’m glad that things are moving fast.”

And she said she’s happy to be back in the suburban home she and Kuchibholta had built.

At a Feb. 24 news conference at Garmin, where Kuchibhotla worked as an engineer, a grieving Dumala spoke firmly: “I need an answer from the government…What are they going to do to stop this hate crime?”

She recalled her husband’s reassurances when the two discussed the wisdom of staying in a nation where they sometimes felt that people looked at them warily.

After the killing, Dumala returned to India for Kuchibhotla’s funeral. She stayed six weeks in the community where she and her husband grew up before coming back to Olathe with her parents, now visiting.

They were greeted with gifts, flowers and “piles of letters of support,” she said, making her return justified.

But much still needs to be done to eradicate hate, she said: “People can not just take everything for granted.”

Rick Montgomery: 816-234-4410, @rmontgomery_r

Related stories from Kansas City Star