By Karen Dillon
OLATHE, Kan (Reuters) – A white U.S. Navy veteran charged with murdering an Indian software engineer at a Kansas bar gazed at a camera from jail and gave curt answers to a judge by video during his initial court appearance on Monday over the shooting, which federal authorities are probing as a possible hate crime.
Adam Purinton, 51, is accused of killing Srinivas Kuchibhotla, 32, and wounding Alok Madasani, also 32, as well as an American who tried to intervene during Wednesday evening’s incident at Austins Bar and Grill in Olathe, a Kansas City suburb.
At least one bystander told the Kansas City Star he shouted “get out of my country” before shooting. The incident led news bulletins in India, where some suggested on social media that a climate of intolerance in the United States had been fueled by President Donald Trump’s rhetoric on immigration.
Purinton, appearing via video conference from jail, asked the court to appoint him an attorney and waived the reading of the formal charges against him of one count of premeditated first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder during the five-minute hearing in the Johnson County District Court in downtown Olathe.
Purinton, who could only be seen from the chest up on the court’s television screen, is being held on $2 million bond in the adjacent Johnson County Jail. In clear language, he replied to a handful of questions from the judge, mostly with curt answers.
Michael McCulloch, who was named by the court to be Purinton’s attorney, declined to comment after the hearing.
Purinton wore an Army green, sleeveless suicide-prevention smock and stared straight at the camera the whole time. His reddish-brown hair was short on the side and spiked on top. He had sideburns to his jawbone and the shadow of a beard.
His next hearing is set for March 9.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer on Monday called reports about the shooting and more acts of vandalism at Jewish cemeteries “disturbing.” On Friday, he said any loss of life in the shooting was tragic, but it was absurd to link the killing to Trump’s “America First” stance.
The Indian Embassy in Washington has expressed India’s deep concern over the incident to the U.S. government and requested a “thorough and speedy investigation.”
Purinton was arrested hours after the shooting at an Applebee’s restaurant in Clinton, Missouri, about 80 miles (130 km) south of Olathe.
According to a recording of a 911 call made by a female bartender at the Applebee’s, Purinton said he needed to hide because he had killed two Iranian men, local NBC affiliate KSHB-TV reported.
“He wouldn’t tell me what he did. I kept asking him and he said he would tell me if I agreed to let him stay with me. I finally got him to tell me,” the bartender tells a dispatcher, according to the tape obtained by KSHB-TV. “He said he shot and killed two Iranian people in Olathe.”
Both the gunman’s Indian victims worked as engineers with navigation device maker Garmin Ltd.
(Additional reporting and writing by Gina Cherelus in New York and Tim Ahmann in Washington; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Andrew Hay and David Gregorio)