With the nation still in shock from the killing of an Indian engineer in the US last week, another Indian-origin businessman has been shot dead outside his home in South Carolina, media reports said. On Thursday night, Harnish Patel had closed his shop at 11.24 p.m. and barely ten minutes later, he was shot dead outside his house in Lancaster, a media report said.
Patel’s death comes two days after President Donald Trump had condemned as “hate and evil” the killing of Srinivas Kuchibhotla, 32, the previous Wednesday in a Kansas bar. Local officials in Lancaster, however, did not believe that Patel’s killing was a bias crime as investigations are on. “I don’t have any reason to believe that this was racially motivated,” County Sheriff Barry Faile said on Friday.
In the February 22 Kansas killing, Kuchibhotla was shot dead by a man screaming, “Get out of my country”. Another Indian Alok Madasani, who was with the victim at a bar, and an American, Ian Grillot, who tried to stop the shooting, were also shot and injured. Adam Purinton, a white and a former Navy SEAL was arrested and charged with murder. He had reportedly said that he had shot two Iranians after shooting the Indians.
The hate crime was condemned by leaders in both the US and India. In his State of the Union address to the joint session of the Congress on February 28, Trump said: “Last week’s shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a Nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms.”
Local WSOCTV said that in Lancaster there was a lot of anger over the killing of Patel, who was considered an important member of the community and a kind person who treated his customers as friends and helped law enforcement.
His store was close to the Sheriff’s office and deputies often frequented the store. Faile said on TV that Patel was a “great family man” and a friend.
The station said that Patel was survived by his wife and child in elementary school, who were at home when he was killed. People had created an impromptu shrine outside Patel’s Speed Mart store by leaving balloons and flowers in his memory, the station said. A sign on door read, “Store closed for few days because of family emergency. Sorry for the inconvenience.”
A tearful customer, Nicole Jones, told the station that when someone didn’t have money, Patel gave them food. “I would have no idea who would do this to him as good as he is to everybody,” she said. A store employee, Keira Baskin, said that he only wanted the best for his employees and his family.
On Thursday night a woman called the police and said that she heard screaming and gunshots and when sheriff’s deputies arrived there they found Patel dead from apparent gunshot wounds a few feet from his house, WBTV reported. Police found two shell casings at the crime scene. A police dog could not pick up any scent to follow from there, WSOCTV reported.