The Kansas City Star published a blistering editorial on Monday, calling out President Donald Trump for his silence after a shooting last week that claimed the life of an Indian engineer and set off concerns about a growing trend of racially motivated crimes in the U.S.
In the column, the editorial board called Trump’s failure to respond to the incident “disquieting.”
“Nearly a week has passed since two India-born engineers were singled out and shot at an Olathe bar, presumably because they were immigrants, darker in skin tone and possibly viewed by the shooter as unwanted foreigners,” the editors wrote. “Not a word has been spoken, tweeted or prepped for Trump’s teleprompter.”
On Tuesday, a White House spokesperson issued a statement on the shooting, saying “the president condemns these and any racially and religiously motivated attacks.” The only previous response from the Trump administration came from White House press secretary Sean Spicer, who called initial reports out of Kansas “disturbing” and claimed it would be “absurd” to link the crime to Trump’s heated immigration rhetoric.
Colleen Nelson, director of the Star’s editorial page, told The Huffington Post it was “heartening” to hear the White House weigh in on the attack. But she said the board still believes Trump should address it himself. She repeated the editorial’s request that Trump mention the shooting Tuesday night, when he delivers a speech to a joint session of Congress.
“He sent a message by inviting family members of victims who were killed by undocumented immigrants to the speech tonight,” said Nelson. “It would be helpful if he would weigh in on the question of an attack where an immigrant was killed by someone saying, ‘Get out of my country.’”
Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani, both 32-year-olds from India, were having a drink at Austins Bar and Grill in Olathe last Wednesday night when Adam Purinton, 51, allegedly confronted them. Witnesses claim Purinton used “racial slurs” to refer to the two men and told them “get out of my country” before leaving the bar. Authorities say Purinton returned with a handgun and opened fire on the two men, killing Kuchibhotla and wounding Madasani.
Ian Grillot, 24, says Purinton shot him when he intervened after the initial shooting. Grillot is currently recovering from gunshot wounds to the hand and chest.
“Trump usually loves to celebrate all-American heroes,” read the Monday editorial. “But he’s passed on commending Ian Grillot, a bystander who leapt to take the gunman down before anyone else was harmed.”
Purinton currently faces charges on one count of premeditated first degree murder and two counts of attempted premeditated first degree murder. The FBI is investigating the incident as a hate crime.
The shooting reverberated in India, igniting fears that Trump’s election has emboldened bigots, leading to instances of racial violence and intolerance.
“The situation seems to be pretty bad after Trump took over as the US. President,” Madasani’s father, Madasani Jaganmohan Reddy, told The Hindustan Times last week. “I appeal to all the parents in India not to send their children to the US in the present circumstances.”
Kuchibhotla’s wife also admitted that she and her husband had be worried about their safety in the wake of Trump’s election. Madasani sought to send a message of unity at a rally over the weekend, calling the shooting “an isolated incident that doesn’t reflect the true spirit of Kansas, the Midwest and the United States,” according to the Associated Press.
But the Star’s editorial demanded more from Trump.
“During such moments of crisis, people look to the president for strength and guidance,” they wrote. “They need to hear their moral outrage articulated, the condemnation of a possible hate crime and the affirmation that the U.S. values everyone’s contributions, whether you’re an immigrant or native-born.”
Grillot also told the Star that Trump addressing the incident directly would offer “closure.”
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story called the Kansas City Star the largest newspaper in Kansas. In fact, the paper is based in Missouri.