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Slain Garmin engineer was a gentle man who ‘did not deserve a death like this'

Srinivas Kuchibhotla

One of Kavipriya Muthuramalingam’s favorite memories of Srinivas Kuchibhotla, the Garmin engineer killed in a Kansas shooting this week, is of him cooking biryani, a South Asian dish.

Srinu, as Muthuramalingam calls him, was a recent master’s degree graduate in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and so was she. Both found work after school at the aviation and defense company Rockwell Collins. The two of them, along with some other recent grads, formed a small community and one day Srinu offered to cook for Muthuramalingam and another friend, Kanu Salaria.

“We got so excited and worked up,” Muthuramalingam says. The two were looking forward to the spicy, meat-filled dish — only to learn Srinu was a vegetarian, and the “traditional” dinner was a plate of vegetables and rice. “It’s good guys, just try it,” she remembers him saying. They teased him for years. “He won my heart that day,” Salaria says.

Kuchibhotla was murdered this week in a high-profile incident that may lead to federal hate crime charges. The Garmin engineer was shot at an Olathe, Kansas, bar, allegedly by 51-year-old Adam Purinton, who was arrested hours after the incident.

Another Garmin engineer, Alok Madasani, was also shot, as was a third man, Ian Grillot, who attempted to intervene in the shooting. The two were treated and are recovering, local officials said.

Purinton allegedly shot Kuchibhotla and Madasani after telling the two men to “get out of my country,” according to witnesses who spoke to the Kansas City Star. Witnesses also told the paper he yelled racial slurs, believing Kuchibhotla and Madasani, originally from India, were “Middle Eastern.”

Purinton has been charged with one count of premeditated first degree murder and two counts of attempted premeditated first degree murder. He is being held on a $2 million bond. Local and national law enforcement officials declined to provide details on the incident during a press conference, citing the early stages of the investigation.

The heinousness of the crime has touched a nerve around the world. Muthuramalingam has organized a GoFundMe on behalf of Kuchibhotla’s family, which at time of writing had rocketed past $500,000. India’s Minister of External Affairs tweeted this week that she had made contact with Kuchibhotla’s family, and said the country will make arrangements to return his remains to India.

Since the shooting, more details have emerged about Kuchibhotla, who Muthuramalingam remembers as a friendly guy, good with kids and always ready to make time for anyone who needed it.

Kuchibhotla was from Hyderabad, India, where he received an engineering degree from the Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, according to his LinkedIn page. He later received a master’s at the University of Texas at El Paso. After a stint as a teaching assistant, he landed at Rockwell.

At Rockwell he was a systems engineer and is remembered as a consummate professional, going places in the industry. “He was very sharp,” Rod Larson, Kuchibhotla’s manager at Rockwell, told the Kansas City Star. “A top-of-his-class kind of guy. His personality was exceptional. He was the kind of employee every manager would want.” Larson couldn’t keep him there, he remembered, and Kuchibhotla took a job at Garmin in 2014. “He had a very good future ahead of him,” Muthuramalingam says.

When he wasn’t working, his friend Salaria remembers, he enjoyed playing volleyball. She remembers him coming to any big party or event she threw, even when he lived four hours away.

Kuchibhotla’s wife, Sunayana Dumala, spoke at a news conference on Friday, organized at Garmin. She said they made Kansas their home after Kuchibhotla got his job there, and found their dream house together; he had recently painted the living area by himself.

He was two weeks away from his 33rd birthday at the time of the shooting. “He did not deserve a death like this,” she said.

Dumala said she sometimes questioned whether they should stay in the United States. “I told him many times, should we think about going back, should we think about going to a different country?” she said. “He said no, let’s just see. Let’s wait and see.”