A Kansas man pleaded guilty Tuesday in state court to killing an engineer from India in a high-profile hate crime that drew international attention and raised fears of growing intolerance in America.
Adam Purinton, 52, also pleaded guilty to injuring two others during the shooting incident in February 2017 at a sports bar.
Witnesses told Kansas media Purinton yelled “Get out of my country” before shooting Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani at Austin’s Bar and Grill in Olathe.
A third man, Ian Grillot, was shot and injured as he tried to intervene.
Kuchibhotla, who later died from injuries sustained in the attack, and Madasani were both originally from India and worked as engineers at Garmin, a tech company that makes GPS devices.
Purinton pleaded guilty to one count of premeditated first-degree murder in Kuchibhotla’s death and two counts of attempted premeditated first-degree murder in the shootings of Madasani and Grillot, officials said. He faces additional hate crime charges in federal court.
Kuchibhotla’s widow, Sunayana Dumala, said the plea “will send a strong message that hate is never acceptable. We must understand and love one another,” KCTV reported.
The incident began after a Purinton allegedly became agitated with the two 32-year-olds who were having a drink after work.
Grillot, a regular at the bar, approached the man and asked him to leave. The suspect left the bar and drove away, according to Grillot. He allegedly returned later and allegedly opened fire in the bar, according to prosecutors.
Grillot, who was shot in the hand and chest, was praised as a hero for attempting to intervene and subdue the suspect.
Purinton was arrested hours later at an Applebee’s restaurant in Clinton, Missouri, about 70 miles away from Olathe.
In 911 calls released by KSHB, an Applebee’s bartender told police a man had admitted to shooting two “Iranian” people in Olathe and was looking for a place to hide.
At the time of the incident, former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton tweeted a link to an article on the shooting and called on President Donald Trump to “step up and speak out” against “threats and hate crimes.”
A White House spokeswoman then condemned the shooting, telling reporters the shooting appears to be “an act of racially motivated hatred.”
Dumala said her husband’s murder had confirmed her worst fears about xenophobia in the US.
“I told him many times ‘Should we think about going back? Should we think about going to a different country?’ He said ‘No,'” she told KCTV-TV.
A few days after Kuchibhotla’s murder, another Indian man, Deep Rai, was shot and injured outside his home in Kent, Washington. His attacker yelled: “Go back to your country.”
The attacks prompted India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to say her country’s strategic partnership with the United States was secondary to the welfare and security of US-based people of Indian-origin, according to a report in The Hindu newspaper.
Purinton’s sentencing is scheduled for May 4.
As part of his plea with Johnson County prosecutors, the parties agreed to a maximum sentence on each count that will run consecutive to each other and to any sentence that may be imposed in his federal case.
Dumala called for a walk Friday in his memory.