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Suspect in Kansas bar shooting of Indians apparently thought they were Iranians

Adam Purinton appears by closed circuit TV in court from the Johnson County detention center on Feb. 27 in Olathe, Kans. (Jill Toyoshiba/Kansas City Star via AP)

Less than five hours after a man shot up a Kansas bar, killing one Indian man and wounding two other people in an apparently racially motivated attack, an Applebee’s bartender 70 miles away made a 911 call.

The woman on the phone told the dispatcher that a man had come into her bar and told her he “had done something really bad and he was on the run from the police.”

The man wouldn’t tell her what he did but kept asking her to allow him to stay at her house. The bartender persisted, persuading him to tell her what happened. “He said he shot and killed two Iranian people in Olathe,” the bartender said.

She read the news and sure enough, noticed that a few hours earlier, a shooting had taken place in Olathe, a city about 20 miles southwest of Kansas City. Her 911 call, later released by a local television station, led authorities to locate Adam Purinton, 51, of Olathe, late Wednesday and take him into custody. The phone call recording supports witness statements that the bar shooter thought the two men, Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani, were of Middle Eastern descent.

They were actually Indian nationals employed by the technology firm Garmin. They had received master’s degrees in the United States. Kuchibhotla died from his injuries Wednesday, and Madasani was released from the hospital the following day. An American who was wounded when he tried to intervene, Ian Grillot, remains hospitalized but continues to improve, doctors said.

Warned to leave, Kansas shooting victim refused to abandon the ‘country he loved,’ his wife said

The FBI announced Tuesday that it is investigating the shooting as “a hate crime,” which could lead to federal prosecution in addition to state murder charges already filed. Witnesses reported that Purinton hurled racial slurs at the two Indians and told them: “Get out of my country.” The shooting stirred anger and fear in India and among the South Asia diaspora in the United States, prompting some to link it to xenophobia spurred by Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

Parents and students in India began to worry that the United States was no longer a safe place for visiting Indian students, scholars and tech workers. The father of Madasani appealed Friday to “all the parents in India” not to send their children to the United States under “present circumstances.”

A relative of Kuchibhotla told The Post that the family was in shock.

“Something has changed in the United States,” he said. “Such things are not good for the Indian community living here.”

Cable news channels debated whether the United States was now a danger zone for those with brown skin. “Is this the new normal?” an anchor on NDTV news channel asked.

On Monday, Hillary Clinton tweeted that the president should “step up and speak out.” She shared a link to a story about the Kansas shooting and said: “With threats & hate crimes on rise, we shouldn’t have to tell @Potus to do his part.”

Purinton, who faces charges of first-degree murder and first-degree attempted murder, made his first court appearance Monday via closed-circuit television from Johnson County jail. He was seen wearing what a sheriff’s department spokesman called a “safety smock,” assigned to suspects who said something in the jail that suggested they might harm themselves, the Associated Press reported. Purinton, described by the Kansas City Star as a Navy veteran, former pilot and air traffic controller who lives in “a comfortable suburban home,” had a bond set at $2 million, according to court documents.

After shots were fired at Austins Bar and Grill on Wednesday night in Olathe, the suspect fled on foot, and a manhunt ensued, the Kansas City Star reported. Purinton was seen less than five hours later in Clinton, Mo., in a 2000 Chevy Silverado.

When he spoke with the Applebee’s bartender that night, he made her promise that she would not call the police, she told the 911 dispatcher.

“I asked him if he had a gun on him, and he told me he did not,” she said. “And he told me he wasn’t going to hurt me, but I don’t know.”

She asked the dispatcher if the police could come to the restaurant quietly, without using sirens. “There’s people in the building still, and I don’t want him to freak out,” she said.

But when Clinton police arrived at 11:43 p.m., Purinton gave himself up without a fight, 41 Action News reported. Officers found him in possession of an expired active-duty Navy identification card. He had booked room 131 at the West Bridge Motel up the road from Applebee’s.

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