Victim in Kansas shooting hailed as a hero for 'standing up to hate'

Ian Grillot dismissed the term hero, saying 'I was just doing what anyone should have done for another human being.'

When shots rang out at Austins Bar and Grill in Olathe, Kan., Wednesday evening, Ian Grillot came to the aid of total strangers. 

Witnesses at Austins say patron Adam Purinton was kicked out of the bar for directing racial slurs at two Indian men, also dining at the bar. Mr. Purinton later came back with a gun and told the two men to, “Get out of my country,” before opening fire, according to witness reports.

Mr. Grillot said he took cover and began to count the shots to estimate when the shooter would run out of bullets. When Grillot assumed the shooter’s magazine was empty, he jumped up to pursue the man, who then shot him in the hand and chest.

“I wasn’t really thinking when I did that,” Grillot said in a video taken from his hospital room and released by University of Kansas Health System. “It was just, it wasn’t right, and I didn’t want the gentleman to potentially go after somebody else.”

Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani, the two young men attacked by Purinton, were both Indian engineers employed by the technology company Garmin. Mr. Madasani was released from the hospital Thursday. Mr. Kuchibhotla did not survive.

Purinton has been arrested and is charged with one count of premeditated first-degree murder and two counts of attempted premeditated first-degree murder, The New York Times reports. The FBI and other US authorities are also investigating the shooting as a possible hate crime.

Leading up to and following the 2016 presidential election, the United States witnessed a surge in hate crimes. The FBI reported in November, for example, that attacks against American Muslims increased by 67 percent in 2015 compared to the year before. And the Southern Poverty Law Center documented more than 860 reports of hate-related incidents in the 10 days following the elections.

But as such incidents have gained widespread attention, so have the compassionate responses of community members.

When vandals desecrated a historic Jewish cemetery in a suburb of St. Louis, Muslim community leaders launched a fundraising campaign to repair the site that surpassed its initial goal of $20,000 within just three hours. 

In late January the Victoria Islamic Center, a mosque located in Victoria, Texas, southeast of San Antonio, was destroyed by a fire just hours after President Trump signed an executive order temporarily banning citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries. Authorities were unsure of the cause of the fire at first, but earlier this month they concluded that the fire was arson

Two days after the fire, however, more than 19,000 people had donated $900,000 to the mosque’s GoFundMe page.

To many of Grillot's newfound fans, his action at Austins on Wednesday night went above and beyond an act of kindness.

“He’s a hero,” one of the fellow patrons, Tyler Lape, told Fox 4 News of Grillot. “It takes a special kind of person when bullets start flying to be so selfless as to run out there and save another person.”

As of Friday afternoon, more than 5,500 people had donated nearly $200,000 to a GoFundMe campaign to assist Grillot’s recovery. And along with donations, well-wishers offered encouraging comments to Grillot on the page.

“Thank you for standing up to hate!” wrote Jean Cumbie. “I hope people follow your example. You literally took a bullet for a stranger because they were being persecuted. You are a shining example of humanity.”

“People like you, who stand up for others and try to help is what makes this country great,” added donor Manoj Kumar.

But Grillot says he doesn’t see himself as a hero – he says he was simply helping someone else in need.

“I’ve been hearing people call me a hero and it’s not like that, I was just doing what anyone should have done for another human being,” Grillot said in the video interview. “It’s not about where he was from or his ethnicity, we are all humans.” 

As of Friday afternoon, more than 10,900 people had donated nearly $400,000 to a separate GoFundMe campaign for the family of deceased Srinivas Kuchibhotla – more than double the initial goal of $150,000 – to pay for funeral services and support costs. A separate GoFundMe campaign is raising funds for both Madasani, who likely still faces medical bills, and the Kuchibhotla family.

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