OLATHE, Kan. – Prosecutors on Thursday charged a 51-year-old man with murder and attempted murder after he allegedly started shooting in a crowded suburban Kansas City bar, killing one man and injuring two others, in an attack that some witnesses said was racially motivated.
Authorities repeatedly declined at a news conference to say whether the shooting was a hate crime although local police said they were working with the FBI to investigate the case.
A bartender at Austins Bar and Grill in Olathe, Kansas, said that Adam Purinton used "racial slurs" before he started shooting on Wednesday night as patrons were watching the University of Kansas-TCU basketball game on television.
Srinivas Kuchibhotla, 32, died at an area hospital, police said. Alok Madasani, 32, and Ian Grillot, 24, were hospitalized and are in stable condition, they said. Witnesses said Grillot had stepped in and tried to stop the shooter. The Linked-in accounts for Kuchibhotla and Madasani say that they were engineers working at GPS-maker Garmin and had studied in India.
Local, county, state and federal law enforcement authorities attended the news conference where the murder charges were announced.
Asked if the presence of federal authorities indicated the shooting could be considered a hate crime, FBI special agent Eric Jackson said it was too early to determine.
"This was a violent crime and we want the best prosecution that relates to this because there are victims of this crime and we want the community to know that ... we're looking to make sure that the individual involved in this is held accountable for his actions."
Bartender Garret Bohnen told the Kansas City Star that Kuchibhotla and Madasani stopped at Austins for a drink once or twice a week.
"From what I understand when he was throwing racial slurs at the two gentlemen (Kuchibhotla and Madasani), Ian (Grillot) stood up for them," Bohnen said. "We're all proud of him."
Witnesses also told the Star that Purinton yelled "get out of my country" before he opened fire.
GoFundMe pages were started to help pay expenses for all three of the victims.
Grillot's sister, Maggie Grillot, said on his GoFundMe page that "Ian stood up for two people being mistreated by a man who was in the wrong ... This resulted in Ian being shot."
Purinton was taken into custody just after midnight on Thursday morning at an Applebee's about 70 miles to the southeast of Olathe in Clinton, Missouri, authorities said.
Assistant Clinton Police Chief Sonny Lynch said an Applebee's bartender summoned police to the bar where the man was drinking because he said he'd been involved in a shooting. The unarmed Purinton was taken into custody and interviewed by detectives from Olathe.
"He mentioned he had been involved in a shooting and we went out there and picked him up," Lynch said.
The bar where the shooting took place was closed Thursday, with a sign in the door that said it would remain closed indefinitely.