Washington: A US Navy veteran today pleaded guilty to the murder of Indian engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla in a racially motivated hate crime at a bar in Kansas City last year that raised fears of growing intolerance in America following President Donald Trump's tough rhetoric on immigration.
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, Alok Madasani, and a bystander, who chased Purinton after he fled the Austin's Bar and Grill in Olathe city on February 22 last year.
Purinton, yelled, "Get out of my country," before shooting Kuchibhotla, who later died from injuries sustained in the attack.
Kuchibhotla and Madasani worked as engineers at Garmin, a tech company that makes GPS devices.
Puriton had earlier pleaded not guilty on all these charges and waived his preliminary hearing in late November 2017.
Before allowing Purinton's plea, Judge Charles Droege explained to him that changing his plea meant he would face life in prison, as well as a minimum of 146 months, maximum of 653 months in prison for attempted murder, not to mention the sentence he'll face if convicted of a hate crime in federal court.
Purinton told the judge he understood, then he sat down as the State presented the details of the incident last February.
Kuchibhotla's widow Sunayana Dumala welcomed the guilty plea.
"Today's guilty verdict will not bring back my Srinu, but it will send a strong message that hate is never acceptable," she said in a statement.
Purinton sentencing is scheduled for May 4.
According to court documents, Purinton's plea hearing was originally scheduled for May 8 but later it was moved to March 6.
Federal prosecutors alleged that Purinton committed offences after substantial planning and premeditation, attempted to kill more than one person in a single criminal episode, and knowingly created a grave risk of death to others on the scene.
The incident happened after a Purinton allegedly became agitated with the two Indians who were having a drink after work.
Grillot, a regular at the bar, approached the man and asked him to leave. The suspect left the bar and drove away, according to Grillot. He allegedly returned later and allegedly opened fire in the bar, according to prosecutors.
The murder generated immense outrage in India.
The murder also drew international attention and raised fears of growing intolerance in America. Many blamed US President Trump's tough rhetoric on immigration, but the White House rejected any link between that and the shooting.
At the time of the incident, former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton tweeted a link to an article on the shooting and called on Trump to "step up and speak out" against "threats and hate crimes." PTI