Wednesday, March 1, 2017

FBI labels Kansas shooting a hate crime; Trump (finally) denounces attack

Mourners in India marched prior to the funeral vigil of Srinivas Kuchobhotia.

BEFORE President Trump's first State of the Union Address, the FBI said the attack in Olathe, Kansas that killed Srinivas Kuchobhotla and wounded two others were "an act of racially motivated hatred," which could lead to potential federal charges down the line.

“Based upon the initial investigative activity, the FBI, in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, is investigating this incident as a hate crime,” an FBI spokeswoman said in a statement. “The FBI will continue to work jointly with Olathe Police Department and our state and local partners regarding this ongoing investigation.”

Later in the day, after waiting so long to denounce hate acts, President Trump finally mentioned the incident in his first SOU. "Recent threats targeting Jewish Community Centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week's shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a Nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its very ugly forms," said Trump.
RELATED: Two men from India shot; one killed
That was in contrast to a day earlier when White House press secretary Sean Spicer responded to a question about the Kansas shooting. “Obviously, any loss of life is tragic, but I’m not going to get into, like, to suggest that there’s any correlation I think is a bit absurd. So I’m not going to go any further than that,” Spicer told reporters.

The shooting suspect, 51-year old Adam Purinton, allegedly told two Indian/American men to "get out of my country" before firing the shots that literally were heard around the world. The incident is being compared to the 1982 beating death of Vincent Chin, who autoworkers mistakenly thought was Japanese, who they blamed for the struggling auto industry.

Kuchibhotla's body was brought home late on Monday night to his hometown of Hyderabad, the capital of Telangana state, and cremated on Tuesday.

"I had asked him to return to India if he was feeling insecure there. But he used to say he was safe and secure," said the victim's mother Parvatha Vardhini, after the funeral to AlJazeera.

Vardhini said she would not allow her younger son, also employed in the US, to return to the country. "My son had gone there in search of a better future. What crime did he commit?"

The deceased engineer's father, Madhusudhan Rao, was more pragmatic. "Now I want the US government to take care of the security of our Indians who are working there," he said. 

The Indian/Americans in and around Olathe and the Kansas City region reacted with a mix of outrage and sadness and said they were taking extra precautions when out in the public.

“This President now has blood on his hands., said Shekar Narasimhan, a Democratic strategist. "He has incited and created the environment where hate crimes are emboldened. All those of colour have something to fear now for our children and theirs. I pray we do not have a hot summer in the US as we have no moral leadership left capable of quelling violence if it erupts,” he told the Hindustan Times.

Alok Madasani, 32, of Overland Park, Kan., who was injured, was released from the hospital on Thursday, a day after the attack. Both men worked for Garmin, the technology firm.

Ian Grillot, who had tried to stop the shooter.was also wounded in the shooting. Grillot’s bravery made him a hero in the community. “We salute 24-year-old Ian Grillot, who is a hero in the great American tradition but whose actions should not remain unsung," said Narasimhan, "Thank you Ian, and we know there are many more like you.”