OLATHE, Kan. — A Kansas man pleaded guilty on Tuesday to the murder of an Indian-born engineer whom he had angrily confronted about his immigration status at a bar here last year, then fatally shot in an attack that drew international scorn.
Witnesses said the suspect, Adam Purinton, yelled, “Get out of my country” before firing the shots that killed the engineer, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, and wounded two others. Federal authorities called the attack a hate crime.
Mr. Purinton’s guilty plea was for state charges of first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder for the two men he wounded. Mr. Purinton, 52, is expected to be sentenced to life in prison on May 4, but he also still faces hate crime and firearm charges in federal court. The shooting came at a time of rising angst across the country over anti-immigrant sentiment and its potential ramifications.
“Today’s guilty verdict will not bring back my Srinu, but it will send a strong message that hate is never acceptable,” Mr. Kuchibhotla’s widow, Sunayana Dumala, said in a statement.
Mr. Kuchibhotla had been having drinks at Austin’s Bar and Grill with a co-worker, Alok Madasani, who was also from India, when Mr. Purinton approached them on the patio and began interrogating them about their immigration status.
“Where are you from?” he asked, according to Will Hurst, an assistant district attorney in Johnson County, who was reading from a statement in court on Tuesday. “How did you get into this country?”
Other bar patrons came to the defense of the two men, and Mr. Purinton left. But he returned with a Taurus 9-millimeter handgun, covered his face with a scarf and opened fire, Mr. Hurst said. Mr. Purinton, a Navy veteran, fired at the two Indian men at least eight times at close range, the prosecutor said. Mr. Madasani was hit once in the thigh and escaped, but Mr. Kuchibhotla was struck several times.
The murder generated immense outrage in India and dominated headlines in the news media there. Many blamed President Trump’s tough rhetoric on immigration, but the White House rejected any link between that and the shooting. Still, the top American diplomat in India released a statement at the time condemning the attack and vowing a full investigation.
When Mr. Hurst said in court on Tuesday that Mr. Kuchibhotla, 32, had died, Mr. Purinton leaned back, tilted his head up, and his lawyer, Michael McCulloch, patted him on the back. Mr. Purinton, wearing an orange jumpsuit with his hands cuffed in front of him, spoke only briefly in response to questions from Judge J. Charles Droege.
Asked how he would plead to the first-degree murder charge, Mr. Purinton said, “Guilty, your honor.”
Mr. Purinton had long struggled with alcoholism, neighbors and family said. He was whimsical and awkward, with a clumsy affect when he was drunk, they said.
But he really seemed to struggle after his father died in 2015, people who knew him said. His relatively harmless drunkenness seemed to turn into something more sinister, those close to him said.
“We all thought he was going to commit suicide,” said Adele Matthews, his niece. “We didn’t think he was going to do this.”
Ms. Matthews said that she and her uncle were always close, but his relationship with her and the rest of the family began to fray after his father’s death. A couple of summers ago, she said, he made a derogatory comment about her weight, something he never would have done in the past.
On Christmas 2016, he showed up to the family gathering about an hour late, she said, and he was already very drunk. Mr. Purinton was told that he needed to get himself together, Ms. Matthews recalled. One family member was particularly forceful, and Mr. Purinton became belligerent.
“Don’t tell me what to do,” he told them, Ms. Matthews said. “I’m going to do whatever I want.”
The family kicked him out of the party and pretty much broke ties with him after that, Ms. Matthews said.
Months later, Mr. Purinton would fracture another family, killing Mr. Kuchibhotla and leaving a wife without her husband.
- ^ then fatally shot in an attack that drew international scorn. (www.nytimes.com)
Houston Recalls Legacy of George Bush, Its Lone Star Yankee and Senior Booster
HOUSTON — Inside the airport that bears his name, George Herbert Walker Bush looks, at a distance, as if he’s wearing a cape.
An 8-foot-tall bronze statue at the Houston airport shows Mr. Bush, who , Barbara Bush, who died in April at the age of 92. After Mr. Bush’s death on Friday, Houston lost its two most famous residents in the span of seven months.
“George H.W. Bush served with valor and integrity as the 41st president of the United States,” Houston’s mayor, Sylvester Turner, said in a statement. “But to Houstonians he was one of our most esteemed and relatable neighbors. He and his wife, Barbara Bush, were our sports teams’ biggest fans, and boosters for everything Houston.”
This was the man whose most memorable quote in years had to do with men’s hosiery. In 2012, as his fondness for wearing bright eye-catching socks was going strong, he explained that he simply “likes a good sock.” At his wife’s funeral at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, Mr. Bush wore a pair of socks with a colorful stack-of-books design, a tribute to Mrs. Bush’s advocacy work for family literacy.
In Houston and its surrounding suburbs, Mr. Bush had not only an airport in his name but a park, a high school and a few more life-size statues. Above Buffalo Bayou, a bronze statue of Mr. Bush looks out into the distance with his hand in his pocket, gazing at, of all things, James A. Baker III, the former secretary of state and Mr. Bush’s tennis partner at the Houston Country Club. The statues of the two close friends face each other in the downtown park, separated by about 100 yards, in Houston’s oddest and longest-running staring contest.
“All I can do now,” Mr. Bush told The New York Times in 2011 about the statue, “is hope that the pigeons will be kind and gentle.”
Charles C. Foster, a Houston immigration lawyer and a longtime friend of the Bush family, came up with the idea for the George H.W. Bush Monument, which was unveiled in 2004. Mr. Foster recalled the day he sat in Mr. Bush’s office at 10000 Memorial Drive and asked for his blessing for the project.
“He looked at me and he sort of looked up at the ceiling,” Mr. Foster said. “He pointed to the ceiling and said, ‘Shouldn’t you wait until I’m up there?’ And then he said, pointing downward, ‘Or perhaps down there?’”
In 1990, Mr. Bush helped turn the eyes of the world to Houston.
As president, he brought thousands of reporters and foreign dignitaries to Houston that summer for the Economic Summit of Industrialized Nations, an annual gathering of the world’s economic powers. The summits had been held in a number of global cities — London, Tokyo, Paris, Venice — and Mr. Bush made the case that his adopted hometown belonged among such world-class company.
Houston was scrappier back then. The city was rebounding from an oil bust in the 1980s that crippled the economy, and it tried hard to present its best, and cleanest, face to the cameras and the visitors, picking up millions of pounds of trash, repaving roads and enlisting the aid of 12,000 volunteers.
“That was huge for Houston,” Mr. Foster said of the 1990 summit. “When the president had a chance, he could have picked some mountain retreat. But he picked his hometown. He was well aware of the chip on our shoulders that we didn’t feel like Houston got the recognition that it should.”
Now, with 2.3 million residents (compared with 1.6 million in 1990), Houston is the fourth-largest city in America, known as much for its diversity as its energy-capital status. George Bush High School, part of the Fort Bend school district, is 43 percent Hispanic, 38 percent black, 12 percent Asian and 4 percent white. More than 90 languages and dialects are spoken in the district.
Early Saturday morning in the upscale Tanglewood area, Houstonians paused at the gates at South Post Oak Lane and North West Oak Drive — the entrance to the gated community where Mr. Bush lived. Someone draped an American flag in the center of the gates, decorated for the holidays with Christmas wreaths.
Shirley Matthews, 66, a lifelong Houstonian who lives nearby, walked up and took a picture of the memorial for her mother. “He was just a good person,” she said. “He wasn’t perfect. But it’s family, and we love each other.”
A Close Race, a Mysterious Ballot and Control of Alaska’s House at Stake
With a crucial legislative seat in Alaska teetering toward a tie earlier this month, lawmakers in Juneau braced for the possibility of a coin toss deciding control of the state’s House of Representatives. Then a mysterious extra ballot emerged that threw the process into further disarray.
Amid several counts, the latest coming on Friday afternoon, a single ballot drew scrutiny across the state.
The state’s review board certified the race, between Kathryn Dodge, a Democrat, and Bart LeBon, a Republican, as a tie earlier this week, with exactly 2,661 votes going to each candidate. The extra ballot, for Ms. Dodge, could have settled the race for the Fairbanks-area district seat.
Later on Friday, the mystery appeared to have been solved — but the standoff over who won the election continued.
Samantha Miller, a spokeswoman for the state elections office, said that workers at Fairbanks’s No. 6 precinct told officials that a woman had come into the polling place to request a special needs ballot on behalf of her husband, who was outside in a vehicle.
The woman came back into the precinct. Her husband had made a mistake, she told the precinct worker, and needed a new ballot. She left behind the one he had already marked, thus making it a spoiled ballot.
The precinct chair told the worker who took the spoiled ballot to put it into a secrecy sleeve, “and that they would deal with it later in the day,” Ms. Miller said.
But instead, the spoiled ballot was put into a compartment with other questioned ballots.
Typically, Ms. Miller said, spoiled ballots are destroyed once they are accounted for. So, because the mystery ballot was found to be spoiled, it will not be counted, she said.
Still, that left the question of what happens if the recount that began on Friday afternoon ends in a tie — again.
Ms. Miller said that both candidates had five days to file a legal challenge to the results. And if the court decided the recount went as it should have, and the race was still a tie?
The prevailing candidate would be determined “by lot,” Ms. Miller said. “It could be a coin toss or some other way of deciding, as long as it’s random.”
It would not be the first time an Alaska race was determined by coin toss.
The state’s elections director at the time flipped an Alaska Mint medallion — the side with a walrus being heads and the side with the state seal being tails. It landed state seal side up.
Ms. Miller would not speculate about when the recount would be complete, but said both candidates were present, along with observers and officials.
Mr. LeBon did not respond to requests for comment on Friday.
Sara Harriger, a spokeswoman for Ms. Dodge, said in a statement that during Friday’s recount, one additional vote was found for Ms. Dodge and a challenged ballot was allowed for her opponent, Mr. LeBon, which meant that the tally stood at 2,662 apiece. Still tied.
Ms. Dodge said in a statement that she believed every legally cast ballot should be counted. “I just want everyone watching this process to take away a sense of confidence in our democratic system and a commitment to cast their votes in future races,” she said, “and knowing that their votes will matter.”
Ms. Dodge had said earlier on Friday that legal action “unfortunately” seemed probable.
“It’s certainly not what any of us expect when we set out to campaign, to find ourselves in a squeaker of this nature,” she said. “I hope we don’t have a coin toss. I don’t know quite what to say, but it doesn’t feel like it’s an appropriate way to settle an election.”
In Alaska, the repercussions of this race will be felt into the next legislative session, though party control of the House in Juneau will be far from clear-cut.
Political coalitions in Juneau do not always come down to party-line votes like in other state houses. Even if Ms. Dodge wins the race, Democrats would still not have an outright majority, and so members of the House will still be tasked with negotiating a coalition majority.
3 Killed After Pickup Truck Fleeing Border Patrol Hits Tire Spikes and Crashes
Three people in a packed pickup truck were killed on Thursday afternoon after the driver ran over tire spikes and crashed on a Southern California highway while trying to flee Border Patrol officers, the authorities said.
The officers turned on their vehicle’s emergency lights and began chasing the pickup truck on Interstate 8, near Boulevard, Calif., at around 4:20 p.m., according to the United States Customs and Border Protection. The authorities said they believed that the pickup truck had been illegally driven over the southern border and had crashed through an “iron bar vehicle barrier.” They said they identified it by matching a piece that was missing from the truck to one agents had spotted on the ground near the border, though they did not elaborate.
The pickup truck reached speeds of over 100 miles per hour, weaving between cars and bypassing others on the side of the highway, before it drove over spikes that the Border Patrol had placed on the road, the California Highway Patrol said. About a mile later, the truck spun out of control and flipped over, ejecting the nine people who were riding in the truck’s bed, the authorities said.
A woman inside the truck, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was killed, as were two people riding in the bed, the police said. Seven people who had “multiple serious injuries” were taken to the hospital, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection said.
The driver, a United States citizen whose name was not released, was the only person wearing a seatbelt, the agency said. The California Highway Patrol took the man into custody, but it was not clear whether he had been charged. The identities of the passengers in the truck have not been released either.
“The investigation into the smuggling incident is ongoing,” the spokesman said in an email, “and the Border Patrol is fully cooperating with the CHP in their investigation of the collision.”
About an hour after the crash, the Border Patrol stopped another vehicle that officers believed had crossed over the border with the pickup truck, the agency said. The driver of that car was also arrested.