By Prarthana Mitra
A month after Adam W Purinton was sentenced to life for shooting 32-year-old Srinivas Kuchibhotla in Kansas City, another racially motivated crime claimed the life of Indian student Sharath Koppu on July 6. The 25-year old was killed at a Kansas City restaurant on Friday, with the shooter or shooters still at large, reported the police.
Who is Sharath Koppu
Hailing from Warangal, Koppu left for the US six months ago to pursue a post-graduate degree at the University of Missouri after obtaining his engineering degree from Vasavi Engineering College. Travelling on an F1 US visa issued to him in December 2017, Koppu was also working part-time at a restaurant in Kansas City, his uncle informed The Hindu.
The news of his death reached his relatives on Saturday morning. Speaking to The Indian Express, Sadasivudu, Sharath’s uncle, said, “We were informed of the incident by his friends in the US. However, neither have his friends been able to get through the authorities over there, nor have we.” Koppu’s parents who reside in Ameerpet, Telangana, have requested the Director-General of Police M Mahendar Reddy and approached the Ministry of External Affairs for further information and assistance.
His relatives have since set up a crowd-sourcing campaign for raising funds to bring back the mortal remains back to India.
What we know about the shooting so far
At around 7 pm (5:30 am IST on Saturday), the shooter/s opened fire on Koppu at a restaurant in the city, later identified as J’s Fish and Chicken Markets. Witnesses spoke to NDTV and said Sharath was shot in the back while trying to run from the robber.
Koppu was reportedly hanging out with two other friends who managed to escape. Two patrolling policemen rushed to the scene after hearing the gunshot but reached the crime scene to find Koppu with a bullet lying in a pool of blood. “The others ducked behind the counter but Sharath turned around and began to run in the opposite direction when the gunman opened fire. Sharath was shot in the back and soon fell to the ground,” Shahid, who runs the restaurant J’s Fish and Chicken Market, said.
After being fatally shot, he was shifted to the nearby hospital where he was declared brought dead. The gunman, yet unidentified, are since absconding.
Reaction from Indian and US authorities
Captain Lionel Colón with Kansas City police said it was unclear how the shooter or shooters managed to escape the scene. “Right now, there’s nobody in custody, no suspect information,” he said. The police department has issued a public announcement attaching the video of the shooting with their tweet declaring a reward for any leads on the shooter.
Looking for this suspect in the robbery & murder of 25-y.o. Sharath Kopuu at 5412 Prospect last night. Sharath was from India and is a student at UMKC. $10,000 reward for info leading to charges in this (& every KCMO murder) https://t.co/qUxkcItwXf
— Kansas City Police (@kcpolice) July 7, 2018
Telangana’s NRI minister KT Rama Rao has promised to help the bereaved family in getting Koppu’s body back to the country. Indian consulate officials in Chicago have also announced full cooperation for the same. Foreign minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted to express her condolences to Koppu’s family.
— Sushma Swaraj (@SushmaSwaraj) July 8, 2018
Another one bites the dust
Koppu’s death begs the question yet again, is there an end to this meaningless violence? Last year, a Hyderabad techie was brutally shot in Kansas City as the shooter, a US Navy veteran, shouted the words “Get out of my country” verbatim, before pulling the trigger.
With the memories of Kuchibhotla’s murder still afresh, Koppu’s death in the same city and under similar circumstances indicate that punitive measures are perhaps not strong enough antidotes to racism and xenophobia. Studies show that racially driven crimes will continue to rise in western countries with the unabated rise of conservative right-wing governments. Given the current political atmosphere, lack of gun control regulations, and open hostility to immigrants in America, the end to militant racism, even if it comes someday, is not nigh.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.