Kuchibhotla’s killer pleads guilty to hate crime

Washington: A former US Navy veteran, serving life in prison for killing Indian engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla and injuring two others at a bar in Kansas city in 2017, has pleaded guilty to hate crime charges.

Adam Purinton, 53, admitted on Monday that he fatally shot Kuchibhotla in February 2017 after confronting him and his co-worker Alok Madasani at Austins Bar & Grill in Olathe, the Kansas City Star reported.

Purinton pleaded guilty in US District Court in Kansas to three federal hate-crime charges saying that he targeted the men “because of their actual and perceived race, colour, religion and national origin”.

American man Ian Grillot, was also wounded having tried to intervene.

Purinton called the Indian men “terrorists” and yelled “Get out of my country!”, before proceeding with the shooting.

He was earlier jailed for 50 years without parole on state murder charges.

Federal prosecutors said Purinton targeted the two Indian nationals “because of their actual and perceived race, colour, religion and national origin”.

Kuchibhotla’s widow Sunayana Dumala did not attend the court hearing but later released a statement thanking federal prosecutors and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“The change in the federal hate crime case against the murderer of my husband Srinu is a significant step to putting an end to hate crimes committed against people of colour and from different cultures… The actions of the court send a strong message that hate is never acceptable,” she said.

As part of Monday’s plea agreement in the federal case, prosecutors agreed to not seek death sentence for Purinton.

He faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, which is the sentence that the prosecution and defence jointly requested. The judge set sentencing for July 2.

“Hate crimes are acts of evil. While we cannot ameliorate the irreparable harm to the victims and their families, we hope that securing this guilty plea brings them some measure of closure,” Acting Associate Attorney General Jesse Panuccio said in a statement.

In March, Purinton pleaded guilty in Johnson County to a charge of first-degree murder as well as two counts of attempted first-degree murder for wounding Madasani and Grillot.

Earlier in May, a Johnson County judge sentenced him to life in prison.