1 Dead, 2 Injured in Possible Race-Related Mass Shooting

1 Dead, 2 Injured in Possible Race-Related Mass Shooting
Austin’s Bar & Grill. (Photo credit: Fox4)

In Olathe, Kansas, one man is dead and two more are critically injured after a man fired multiple bullets into a crowded sports bar. According to a Kansas City Star reporter who tweeted from the scene, two of the shooting victims may have been “Middle Eastern or Indian” and the shooter may have uttered racial slurs before opening fire.

This report is still unconfirmed by law enforcement officials.

Austins’ Bar & Grill was reportedly packed with fans last night who were watching a college basketball game involving the University of Kansas when the suspect — described by police as a white male in his 50’s — allegedly began yelling racial slurs. When he was confronted by a bar regular, identified by local news as Ian Grillot, the suspect began firing into the crowd, moving from inside the bar to the outside parking lot. In addition to Grillot, who is currently critically wounded, two other adult males initially reported to be in their 20’s or 30’s were hit by the gunfire. One of those victims later died of his injuries.

The suspected shooter then fled the scene, leading police on a manhunt that lasted throughout most of Wednesday evening. The suspected shooter was eventually taken into custody without incident earlier this morning in Clinton, Missouri after being overheard at a local Applebee’s telling the bartender that he had “killed two Middle Eastern men“. Clinton, Missouri is about a 90 minute drive from Olathe, Kansas.

Although law enforcement officials have not officially released the names of the suspect or the victims, the Kansas City Star is reporting that (in addition to Grillot) the two other victims shot last night were employees of Garmin’s Aviation Systems Engineering team. They were identified in a company-wide email as Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani, and both appear to be Indian or Indian American immigrants to the United States.

According to his LinkedIn, Kuchibhotla graduated from Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University — one of India’s leading engineering-focused universities, located in Hyderabad — before pursuing a Master’s Degree at the University of Texas in El Paso in Electrical Engineering. He had been an employee at Garmin for nearly four years, and before that had worked as an engineer for Rockwell Collins.

Madasani also received his bachelor’s degree in Hyderabad, India at Vasavi College of Engineering before pursuing a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Like Kuchibhotla, Madasani worked as an engineer at Rockwell Collins before joining the Aviations program at Garmin just under three years ago.

Garmin identified Kuchibhotla as the victim who died of his injuries, while Madasani remains hospitalized. Reports the Kansas City Star:

In an email to employees, Garmin officials identified the fatal victim as employee Srinivas Kuchibhotla. Alok Madasani was injured, the email said.

“Unfortunately, two associates on our Aviation Systems Engineering team, Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani, were shot. We are devastated to inform you that Srinivas passed away and Alok is currently recovering in the hospital,” Garmin said in the email.

In a public statement, Garmin said, “We’re saddened that two Garmin associates were involved in last night’s incident, and we express our condolences to the family and friends of our co-workers involved. Garmin will have grievance counselors on-site and available for its associates today and tomorrow.”

Two of the shooting victims were employees of the Aviation Systems Engineering team at Garmin, headquartered in Olathe.

47% of the hate crimes tracked by the FBI are race-related, and the distribution of anti-Muslim violence — already alarmingly high after 9/11 — has continued to rise dramatically in the last few years in parallel with widespread Islamophobic rhetoric from the political Right. The Southern Poverty Law Center has further issued a report revealing that the number of anti-Muslim hate groups in America doubled in 2016. South Asian Americans, who include people of all faith, are often mistaken to be Muslim and are targeted alongside Muslims in anti-Muslim crimes. Indeed, Sikh American Balbir Singh Sodhi was the first person to lose his life in an anti-Muslim hate crime after 9/11.

If the shooting last night in Olathe is found to be influenced by racial bias (which is, to be clear, still a big “if”), it would be only the latest example of a growing trend of racially-motivated violence in the United States targeting Muslim and Middle Eastern Americans, and anyone mistaken to be them.

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