Nobody was ever more American than was Ian Grillot when he leapt from under the table and started towards the gunman in Austins Bar & Grill on Wednesday night.
Grillot had been in this sports bar in Olathe, Kansas, watching a basketball game when a decidedly un-American man was ejected for making disparaging remarks to two patrons whom he imagined to be Middle Eastern.
“Get out of my country!” the man was heard to shout.
Moments later, the man returned to the bar with a gun in hand and shot both patrons. Grillot ducked under a table but retained the presence of mind to count the number of shots.
“I thought I heard nine,” Grillot would later say in a video released by the University of Kansas Health System. “I expected his magazine to be empty.”
America was never greater than the moment that immediately followed.
“So I got up and proceeded to chase him down,” Grillot would recall. “I wasn’t really thinking when I did that. It was just, it wasn’t right, and I didn’t want the gentleman to potentially go after somebody else.”
Grillot would dismiss any suggestion that he was a hero.
“It’s not like that,” he would say. “I just did what I felt was naturally right to do… I was just doing what anyone should have done for another human being. It’s not about where he’s from, or ethnicity. We’re all humans.”
But the gunman suddenly turned and proved to have one more round.
“I guess I miscounted with everything going on,” Grillot would allow.
The bullet pierced Grillot’s hand and tore into his chest.
“Barely missed my carotid artery I guess, fractured one of my vertebrae,” Grillot would say.
The doctors informed him at the hospital that he could have easily been killed or left paralyzed.
“I was told I was incredibly lucky,” Grillot would recall. “[The bullet] could have severed my spine. I could have never walked again, let alone never seen my family again."
One of the other two victims was not so fortunate. Srinivas Kuchibhotla was beyond saving. He was not from the Middle East, but from India. He was 32 and he had been working in Kansas since 2014 as an aviation engineer at the tech company Garmin. He and his wife had reportedly planned to start a family this year.
The other man, Alok Madasani, also 32, also from India, also working since 2014 as an aviation engineer at Garmin, was luckier. He was able to visit Grillot’s hospital room on Thursday.
“It was the greatest thing, I can’t even describe it,” Grillot would later say. “It just put the biggest smile of my face when that gentleman walked through those doors, just seeing him walking. Oh, it was great. I was praying all night for both of them. Unfortunately, only one of my prayers were heard.”
And Grillot was told something that made Madasani’s survival all the more wonderful.
“I’m coming to find out his wife is five months pregnant,” Grillot would report. “I'm just very grateful that one of the gentlemen is fine and alive. It is terrible what happened to his friend.”
Grillot felt that he and the other lucky victim now shared a bond with the one who had not survived.
“He'll be with us both from now on, forever,” Grillot would say.
Grillot would add, “Something was guiding me to do what I did.”
That something was what was best in him, which is also what is best in all of us, which is what is truly great in America, which is the greatness of the human spirit everywhere.
By late morning Friday, one gofundme page for Kuchibhotla had collected more than $365,000. A number of contributors added a message to Grillot.
“Ian, you now have 1.25 billion friends who think you are a hero,” one person wrote.
A gofundme page for Grillot had collected more than $150,000.
“Thank you for standing up to hate!” a contributor wrote. “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.”
Police had arrested 51-year-old Adam Purinton and charged him with murder. Police say that he had gone on to more drinking at an Applebee’s, where he allegedly told people that he had just shot two men from the Middle East. He was held on $2 million bail.
Meanwhile, preparations were being made to fly Kuchibhotla’s remains back to his hometown of Telegana. He will be the second native son returned to that Indian city this month after being shot to death in America. A 27 year-old software engine named Vamshi Reddy Mamidala was murdered during a robbery in the basement of his apartment bundling in Milpitas, California on February 10.
But, lest anybody think that America is a country where hate and violence reign, there is Ian Grillot to remind us and the world who we really are.