Sunayana Dumala, the widow of Indian engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla who was murdered in a racially motivated hate crime at a bar in Kansas City last year, led a peace walk with her husband’s hundreds of friends and co-workers.
Sunayana led the memorial peace walk on Friday what would have been the 34th birthday of Kuchibhotla. Kuchibhotla was fatally shot in Olathe, Kansas, in February last year by a US navy veteran. His colleague Alok Madasani was also critically injured in the attack.
“We’re gathered here because of man’s one action and the hate that took of an innocent life,” Sunayana told the large crowd gathered outside of Garmin where Kuchibhotla and Madasani were engineers.
The approximately 3-kilometer peace walk from the Garmin headquarters to the bar was meant to honour the life of Kuchibhotla.
Last week, Adam Purinton, 52, pleaded guilty before a Kansas court. He was charged with first-degree murder of Kuchibhotla, 32, and two counts of attempted first-degree murder in the shootings of his friend, Madasani.
Purinton, yelled, “Get out of my country,” before shooting Kuchibhotla, who later died from injuries sustained in the attack. He also shot and wounded Ian Grillot, an Olathe man who tried to defend Kuchibhotla and Madasani. Grillot also attended Friday’s walk.
“Sunayana has not let this tragedy defeat her, instead she used the circumstances to find a voice and spread a message,” Garmin CEO Clifton Pemble said to the crowd before the walk began.
“The goal is to share more immigrant stories from the past and present and to spread a positive message that America is welcome to everybody from all walks of life,” Sunayana said.
“It’s a terrible reason that we are here right now but seeing the support for the community and the continued support a little year after it’s just absolutely wonderful,” Grillot said.
Sunayana, recently launched Forever Welcome, a Facebook page for immigrants who did not feel that way after the shooting.
“Olathe will not let one act of evil define us. We are moving forward,” Olathe Mayor Michael Copleland said. As are Grillot, Madasani and Sunayana – tied together by hate but united by love.
“You all being here is our answer to that one man, that our community believes in being united,” Sunayana said. Purinton will be sentenced in May, likely to life in prison. He still faces hate crime charges that could carry the death penalty.