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Widow shares moment she knew husband was killed in Austin's shooting

Posted: 3:26 PM, Jan 30, 2018
Updated: 2018-01-30 18:42:22-05

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Sunayana Dumala doesn't like to think about Feb. 22, 2017.

“I was scrolling through Facebook out of habit…and one of my friends posted ‘shooting’, ‘three people’,” she recalled.

As she read more, she learned the shooting had happened at Austin’s Bar and Grill in Olathe, a place her husband often went after work.

She recounts this to 41 Action News Anchor Christa Dubill as she travels to Washington, D.C. as Kansas Rep. Kevin Yoder's guest to the annual State of the Union address.

On the night of the shooting, she remembers trying calling her husband, Srinivas Kuchibohtla, who she lovingly called Srinu. There was no answer. 

She was chatting with friends to try and find out if her husband was at Austin’s.

No one knew anything about where he was.

“I was just waiting to hear that he wasn’t there and he was safe,” she said.

She was growing more frantic, reading more details of the breaking news of the shooting.

Then, a flash of headlights.

“I run to the kitchen door and I open it, hoping it’s Srinu’s car,” she said.

It wasn’t. It was one of their friends. By this time, Sunayana was starting for fear the worst.

“I was like, Srinu was there, isn’t it?” she asked.

He nodded his head.

“Is he the one critically injured?” she asked, knowingly.

He told her he was. 

“I just fell on the ground and I was like holding his legs and I’m like, take me to the hospital. Please, take me to the hospital,” she recalled, with pain in her eyes. 

Srinu died from his injuries. A man, who’d been kicked out of the bar, had come back and shot Srinu and one of Srinu’s friends. He was reported to have yelled, “Get out of my country” and accused them of being terrorists before firing, also injuring a bystander who’d tried to help.

As Kunayana tried to process what she just heard, she knew almost immediately, her status in this country was in jeopardy. 

“I knew I’d lost my status to stay,” she said.

Kunayana’s legal status in the United States was tied to her husband’s work visa.

“Those one month or one and a half months was the most-toughest period, where I'm trying to process that Srinu is not here when I’m doing the funeral and the customs of the Hindu tradition when I’m having to fill out forms — visa forms — and information,” she said.

But there was a moment that stands out in her mind as the most profound moment during that time.

“The attorney sent me a questionnaire. I filled it out and sent it to him and he gets back to me,” she said with a tone of sadness. 

“He says, ‘Sunayana, I’m so sorry to say… you should change the status from married to widowed’…”

She had filled out the paperwork applying for her own visa and had written she was married, instead of widowed. It was something she hadn’t thought of.

“That’s when it hit me the most,” Sunayana said with a sigh.

Sunayana was widowed in America, unsure if she could stay.

But she was determined.