The widow of an Indian man killed in a suspected race crime in the US has said her husband “loved America” and came to the country “full of dreams”.
Sunayana Dumala, who flew to India after the shooting to be with her husband’s family, told the BBC she was “devastated” by his death.
Srinivas Kuchibhotla was shot dead in a bar in Olathe, Kansas. His friend Alok Madasani and an American were injured.
Adam Purinton, 51, has been charged with premeditated first-degree murder.
Ms Dumala said that she and Mr Kuchibhotla had grown anxious about racial hatred after the election of Donald Trump, but she said her husband was “dedicated” to their life in the US and to his job as an engineer.
“Just last week we drove to Iowa to see our friends and their new baby,” she told the BBC’s Rajini Vaidyanathan in Kansas. “When we came back, he was working in the car while I was driving. That’s how much he loved working… He personally wanted to do so much for this country.”
Mr Kuchibhotla worked at the US technology company Garmin, alongside his friend Mr Madasani, who has now been released from hospital. The pair were regulars at Austin’s Bar and Grill where they enjoyed sharing a drink after work.
But on Wednesday night another customer, Adam Purinton, was shouting racist slurs and told the two men they did not belong in America, witnesses said.
Mr Purinton was thrown out but, according to police, he returned with a gun and opened fire, killing Mr Kuchibhotla. Mr Madasani was wounded, along with Ian Grillot, a 24-year-old American who attempted to intervene.
‘I asked him, is Srina dead?’
Ms Dumala last saw her husband early that morning, when he left for work. “I was still taking my shower as he was passing from the hall and he said goodbye,” she said.
He had worked late two nights already that week and she texted him to ask if he would bring some work home so they could have tea together. He said yes and told her he’d be home at 19:00.
At 20:00 she began to get worried and started calling friends, including Mr Madasani’s wife. She heard something about a shooting at the bar and she phoned her husband over and over again until a friend came to the house with news.
“The look in his face and the way he was looking at me… I asked him, ‘Is Srina dead?’, and he nodded his head.”
Ms Dumala said she wanted to rush to the hospital but collapsed in the garage. She waited at the house until two policemen arrived.
“They asked my name, Srina’s name, his date of birth,” she said. “Then they told me those words and they just said it so simply. They said they were sorry.”
A growing fear of being foreign
Mr Kuchibhotla was from the Indian city of Hyderabad, where his parents still live. Ms Dumala described how her husband had recently bought a car for his father. “He was so happy and so proud about it,” she said.
“There are three brothers and he’s the youngest. I always heard stories that they were the naughtiest kids.”
Ms Dumala began to lose sleep after the election in November, fearful that the country the couple had come to call home would turn against them.
“I was so worried I just couldn’t sleep,” she said. “I was talking to Srina and I was like, ‘Will we be safe in this country?’ He would say ‘Nani, Nani, don’t worry. We will be OK. We will be OK’.”
They discussed whether they should return to India but, in the end, she decided that if they minded their own business, nobody would harm them.
The FBI is now investigating whether Mr Kuchibhotla and Mr Madasani were targeted because of their race. Mr Madasani has visited Ian Grillot, 24, the US man injured while attempting to stop the shooting, to thank him.
Ms Dumala plans to return to the US, but she said her husband would be “everywhere”.
“His clothes, his side of the sink, the way he used to brush, shower. His daily prayers in that room, preparing his favourite food. It will be tough eating without him,” she said.