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US: Indian-origin motel owner, 76, shot dead in Alabama after altercation over room

William Jeremy Moore, 34, was apprehended for fatally shooting 76-year-old Pravin Raojibhai Patel after an altercation over a rental room. This incident is the latest in a worrying string of deaths of Indian or Indian-American people across the United States.

Aveek Banerjee Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Montgomery Published on: February 15, 2024 18:40 IST
US, Alabama, Indian origin man shot dead, motel owner
Image Source : X Pravin Raojibhai Patel, 76, who was shot dead in Alabama.

Alabama: An elderly Indian-origin motel owner in the US State of Alabama was shot dead by a customer following an argument over a rental room, adding to the string of violent incidents against the community that has left Indians shocked in the country. Pravin Raojibhai Patel, 76, was the owner of the Hillcrest Motel in Sheffield and was shot dead last week, according to local media reports.

According to Sheffield Police Chief Ricky Terry, William Jeremy Moore, 34, was arrested for the shooting of Patel. Moore came to the property looking to rent a room, after which an altercation occurred and Moore pulled a gun and shot the motel owner, Terry said. “Moore was quickly apprehended by Sheffield Police on 13th Avenue when he was trying to break into an abandoned house,” he added.

The murder weapon was found in Moore's possession when he was arrested. A felony complaint states Patel tried to get Moore to leave before the shooting. Moore started to leave when he then turned and shot Patel twice in the chest.

"I heard three gunshots. I can't believe it; he was just doing his job," said Jemeriz Owens, a barber working across the street, who was left shaken after witnessing the aftermath of the shooting. Additionally, Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA) in a statement said America's hotel owners are deeply saddened, shocked, and outraged by this senseless act of violence against a small business owner that cost him his life.

"No family should have to endure what Pravin’s family is going through, and we send our condolences to everyone who knew and loved him," said the association. AAHOA Alabama Regional Director Sanjay M Patel said Pravin Patel spent more than four decades in the town of Sheffield, owning and operating the same motel.

Everyone in town knew him as a familiar face in the community after being there for 40-plus years, and the family was well-known in the community for being genuine and caring, the statement said. 

String of Indian or Indian-American deaths evoke concerns

There have been a string of deaths of an Indian or Indian-American in the country in recent months, which has left the community shocked and shaken. An Indian-origin family of four, along with their two twins aged 4, were found dead on Monday at their home in California with the police investigating the case as a murder-suicide. The police said that two of the victims died from gunshot wounds, while the cause of death for the other two is yet to be determined.

On February 10, a 41-year-old Indian-origin IT executive died after suffering life-threatening injuries during an assault outside a restaurant in Washington. Last week, a 23-year-old man was found dead at Indiana's Purdue University. The student was identified as Sameer Kamath and the police ruled his death as a suicide.

Vivek Saini, another Indian student from Haryana, was hammered to death by a homeless drug addict in Georgia state’s Lithonia city. Saini, a part-time clerk at a store that sheltered Faulkner, had shown kindness to the accused for almost two days and provided him with chips, a coke, water, and even a jacket for warmth. Later, the death of another Indian student Shreyas Reddy Benigeri was reported from the Ohio region. According to the Indian Embassy in New York, a police investigation was underway but no foul play was suspected.

In December, Neel Acharya, an Indian student in the United States studying at Indiana's Purdue University, went missing and his body was discovered last month. On February 1, the Indian Embassy in New York said that an 18-year-old Indian-American student, Akul B Dhawan, at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign was found dead last month with signs of hypothermia.

The bodies of two Indian-origin students, Dinesh Gattu, 22, and Sai Rakoti, 21, were found at Sacred Hearts University in Connecticut, after they suffered accidental overdoses involving fentanyl, NBC News reported. Indians constitute more than 25 per cent of all international students in the US

US Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti on Friday, acknowledged the "unfortunate" deaths of Indian students and emphasised that the President Joe Biden-led government would make sure to make the country a wonderful place to study while keeping the safety agenda on top priority. "We are very committed to making sure that Indians know that the United States is a wonderful place to study and to be safe," he said.

(with inputs from PTI)

ALSO READ | Indian-American couple and their twins found dead in California, police suspect murder-suicide

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