Already serving life in prison on a state murder charge, an Olathe man avoided a possible death sentence and pleaded guilty Monday to federal charges in the hate-crime killing of a man from India.
him and another man from India at Austins Bar & Grill in Olathe.
Purinton, who turned 53 on Monday, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan., to three federal hate-crime charges alleging that he targeted the men “because of their actual and perceived race, color, religion and national origin.”
Kuchibhotla's widow, Sunayana Dumala, did not attend Monday's court hearing but later released a statement thanking federal prosecutors and the FBI.
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"Today’s change in the federal hate crime case against the murderer of my husband Srinu is a significant step to putting an end to hate crimes committed against people of color and from different cultures," she said. "The actions of the court today send a strong message that hate is never acceptable."
Her comments were echoed by Darrin Jones, special agent in charge of the Kansas City office of the FBI.
"This type of hatred will never be tolerated," Jones said in a written statement. "I think it’s important for the community to see and understand that the FBI is committed to aggressively protecting and preserving the civil rights of all of our communities.”
In court Monday, Christopher J. Perras, an attorney with the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice, outlined the evidence that would have been presented if the case had gone to trial.
Several weeks before the shooting, Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani, his friend and fellow engineer at Garmin, were at Austins when Purinton saw them and made a comment to another patron.
"Did you see the terrorists on the patio?" Purinton asked.
The patron told him they were from India and they were not terrorists.
On Feb. 22, 2017, the two friends were once again having an after-work drink at the bar on 151st Street when Purinton confronted them.
He demanded to know where they were from, then poked Kuchibhotla in the chest and called him a terrorist and "and (N-word)."
"Get out of my country," he told them.
That's when bar patrons, including Ian Grillot, asked Purinton to leave, and he was escorted from the business by employees.
Purinton then went home, changed clothes and got his 9mm semi-automatic handgun.
He returned to the bar, covered his face with a scarf to hide his identity and went inside.
He then fired eight shots at the two Indian men. Kuchibhotla was hit by at least four bullets. Madasani was shot in the leg.
As Purinton fled, Grillot ran after him. Purinton turned and shot him.
Later, Purinton called a friend and said he was on the run from police because he had shot "two Iranians."
He said the same thing to a bartender at a restaurant in Clinton, Mo. The bartender called police, and Purinton was arrested.
He was charged with murder in Johnson County and with the hate crimes in federal court.
In March, he pleaded guilty in Johnson County to a charge of first-degree murder as well as two counts of attempted first-degree murder for wounding Madasani and Grillot.
Earlier this month, a Johnson County judge sentenced Purinton to life in prison.
As part of Monday's plea agreement in the federal case, prosecutors agreed to not seek the death sentence.
Attorneys will recommend that he be sentenced to life in prison for each of the three counts. The agreement calls for them to be run consecutively to each other and to the state charge.
The judge set sentencing for July 2.