A bartender told an emergency call handler that a man arrested for an apparently racially motivated bar shooting of two Indian men admitted targeting two people, but described them as Iranian.
A recording from 911 tapes in Henry County, Missouri, revealed that the restaurant bartender warned police not to approach the building with sirens blaring or the man would “freak out” and “something bad's going to happen”.
The suspect, Adam Purinton, 51, of Olathe, Kansas, made his first appearance in court on Monday by video link. He has been charged with first-degree murder and first-degree attempted murder.
According to witnesses, he yelled “get out of my country” at two 32-year-old Indian men, Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani, before he opened fire at Austin's Bar and Grill in the Kansas City suburb on Wednesday evening.
Mr Kuchibhotla was killed and Mr Madasani injured. The two had moved to the US from India to study, and they worked as engineers at GPS-maker Garmin.
A third patron, Ian Grillot, 24, was wounded when he tried to intervene.
After the shooting, Purinton, who is white, drove 70 miles to a restaurant in Clinton, Missouri, where he made the admission to the bartender.
In the 911 call, the bartender, Sam Suida, told the dispatcher a man had come into the bar and said he had done something “really bad” and was on the run from the police.
“He asked if he could stay with me and my husband, and he wouldn't tell me what he did. I kept asking him, and he said that he would tell me if I agreed to let him stay with me,” the bartender said.
“Well, I finally got him to tell me and he said, like, that he shot and killed two Iranian people in Olathe.”
Authorities have declined to discuss a possible motive for the attack or to say if they are investigating it as a hate crime, but the incident has raised concern about the treatment of immigrants, who feel targeted by President Donald Trump's promises to ban certain travellers, build a wall along the Mexico border and put “America first”.
During Monday's court appearance lasting less than two minutes, Purinton was wearing what was described by a sheriff's department spokesman as a “safety smock”, assigned to suspects who say something during jail processing that suggests they might harm themselves.
Johnson County sheriff's Master Deputy Rick Howell would not disclose the comment by Purinton that raised concern, but said the suspect would wear the smock until mental health professionals say otherwise.
Andy Berthelsen, a neighbour of Purinton's for the past 15 years, said he had become “a drunken mess” after his father's death about 18 months ago. He said he does not believe the shooting stemmed from hatred, and that it probably resulted from Purinton's physical and mental deterioration.
Mr Grillot, of Grandview, Missouri, is recovering after a bullet went through his right hand and into his chest.
He said he had to do something because there were families and children in the bar when the gunfire erupted.
Mr Madasani addressed a crowd of hundreds during a vigil on Sunday night at the Ball Conference Centre in Olathe.
He described the killing of his friend and co-worker, as “a senseless crime”, the Kansas City Star reported.
“The main reason why I am here is that's what my best friend, Srinivas, would have done,” Mr Madasani said. “He would have been here for me.
“I wish it was a dream.”
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