An American man has been charged with hate crime for assaulting an Indian-origin man and hurling racial slurs, mistaking him for a Muslim. Washington, Meanwhile, Kansas has recognized March 16 as ‘Indian American Appreciation Day’ to honor an Indian techie who was killed last month in a racially-motivated hate crime. writes Lalit K. Jha. – @Siliconeer #Siliconeer #IndianAmerican #KamalaHarris #PramilaJayapal @KamalaHarris @PramilaJayapal @TiESV #TiESV #Hatecrime
Jeffrey Allen Burgess, 54, of Bethel Park, Pennsylvania, has been accused of intentionally harming a man named Ankur Mehta on Nov. 22 because of his “perceived race, color and national origin.”
A federal grand jury, March 16, indicted Burgess of a hate crime charge in connection with the alleged assault at a Red Robin restaurant in South Hills Village, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and acting U.S. Attorney Soo C. Song for the Western District of Pennsylvania announced the indictment.
At the time of the incident, police said, Burgess was sitting next to Mehta inside the Red Robin restaurant when he began insulting him and then repeatedly elbowed him in the head.
“I don’t want you sitting next to me…you people,” Burgess was quoted as saying by witnesses in addition to his anti-Muslim racial slurs, according to a criminal complaint filed by Bethel Park police.
Witnesses told police Burgess struck Mehta four or five times and called him a “(expletive) Muslim,” according to the complaint.
Mehta was treated for a laceration to the upper lip and a loose tooth. Mehta is of Indian descent, police said.
In addition to the slurs, Burgess told Mehta “things are different now,” police said, which authorities believe was a reference to the election of Donald Trump.
If convicted Burgess faces a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years of prison, a fine of $250,000 or both.
Burgess also faces state charges of ethnic intimidation, public drunkenness and simple assault stemming from the same incident.
The indictment of Burgess comes amid a series of suspected hate crime cases targeting Indian Americans.
On Feb. 22, Indian nationals Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani were shot at a bar in Olathe, Kansas, by a man shouting “get out of my country.” Kuchibhotla, 32, later died at a hospital.
On March 3, a Sikh American was shot and injured in Kent, Washington, by a gunman who reportedly told him to “go back to your own country.”
Kansas Recognizes Mar 16 as ‘Indian American Appreciation Day’
Srinivas Kuchibhotla, 32, was killed when 51-year-old U.S. Navy veteran Adam Purinton opened fire at him and his friend Alok Madasani at a bar in Olathe, Feb. 22, before yelling “get out of my country.” Madasani and American national Ian Grillot were injured in the attack.
Asserting that the senseless act of violence “will not divided or define” the state, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback said, “The unique contribution of Indian community has made Kansas a better place. We are very very thankful to them.”
“These actions can never overshadow our shared values and believes, the dignity of mankind…We will continue to welcome and support the Indian community in the State of Kansas,” Brownback said at an event in Topeka, the State Capital.
Madasani and Grillot also attended the event to commemorate the life of Kuchibhotla.
Brownback publicly apologized for the loss of life and injury to Madasani.
“I’d like to thank Ian Grillot for his heroic efforts to intervene, and I wish Alok and Ian both a speedy recovery,” he said at the event during which he issued a proclamation to recognize March 16 as the ‘Indian American Appreciation Day.’
“We find peace in the Sanskrit mantra Satyamev Jayate or truth alone triumphs. With this proclamation today, I am declaring Indian American Day in the State of Kansas,” the Governor said.
“This is a deplorable act that happened, We will not let it define us as people,” he said.
“Srinivas, embodied what it means to be a Kansan,” Brownback said, adding that his is a similar story of tens of thousands of Indian Americans who have called Kansas home over the generations.
“Moving forward, Kansas remains committed to standing with the Indian community. We will always reject the acts of violence and harm. We reject hatred in all its forms,” he said.
Brownback said Kansas is committed to protect all its neighbors and its guests.
In his brief remarks, Madasani said the proclamation is an honor that Kuchibhotla would be proud of.
Meanwhile, India House, Houston, held a candle light vigil in honor of Kuchibhotla.
To celebrate true American spirit, India House also decided to is honoring Grillot, who tried to stop the shooter.
The candle light vigil was attended by a large number of Indian Americans, friends of the victims and several elected officials.
Vipin Kumar, Executive Director of India House said, the community will work toward combating ignorance and blind hatred and promoting the Hindu values of peace and love.
“We conclude this event today with a message of hope, love and peace,” Kumar said.
“And with the resolve to fight hate.”