(A TOI Report)
WASHINGTON: Two Indian Ph.D students were found shot dead in an apartment in Louisiana State University in what authorities said was a home break-in.
The victims, Chandrasekhar Reddy Komma and Kiran Kumar Allam, both doctoral students from Andhra Pradesh, were found inside Allamâ€™s apartment in the university campus late Thursday night after authorities received a call seeking medical attention.
The 911 call was made by Allam’s pregnant wife, who returned home and found the men dead. Authorities said both men had been shot in the head once in what is described as an area with one of the highest crime rates in the city.
Komma, who was studying biochemistry, was found bound with a computer cable, while Allam, who was in the chemistry programme, was near the front door. Initial reports said nothing appears to have been stolen from the house.
The incident stunned the LSU campus, which had a large contingent of Indian students. Louisiana is the home state of Bobby Jindal, the recently elected Governor who is of Indian origin. LSUâ€™s law school dean for many years was Bhisham Agnihotri, who was a special envoy for overseas Indians under the NDA government.
The shootings took place even as the 30,000-student campus was in the exam mode. Consequently, the campus was not shut down, although following the Virginia Tech massacre, universities had decided on a lock-down in the event of campus shoot outs.
But authorities determined that this was an isolated incident that posed no larger danger although the killers are still on the loose.
”Police actually think it was a straight home invasion and not a concern to the rest of the campus,” Kristine Calongne, a university spokeswoman, said.
But the university advised students to exercise caution in their movements even as some reports said authorities were on the look-out for three men who were seen leaving the area in connection with the execution-style killing.
”This was a tragic loss for the LSU community, the LSU family,” the university Chancellor Sean O’Keefe told reporters. ”Our deepest condolences go out to the families.”
Phani Mylavarpu, a 26-year-old Indian student pursuing a mechanical engineering Ph.D., told the local Times-Picayune that he was an acquaintance of both victims, having met them at social events of the Indian Student Association, which brings together Indian students on the campus.
Mylavarpu, a former president of the group, said Indian students have spent much of the day talking with each other talking with each other about the crimes and fielding telephone calls from concerned relatives and friends from India.
The homicides appear to be ”a random, unfortunate act” not targeting the victims because of their nationality, Mylavarpu said, echoing the local authorities.
But he said international students, who often congregate together and comprise a considerable portion of the residences in select housing units, want to be assured that their safety is a priority for campus police.
”I’m not blaming the safety system,” he said, ”but things like this are still happening, and it leaves us concerned on behalf of the international student community.”
This is the second instance of Indian student death in local campuses. In June last year, Ajmaluddin Mohammed (23), pursuing his MS from Louisiana University, was reported to have drowned in a swimming pool in his apartment complex minutes after he spoke to his mother Asima Afzal in India on Internet voice chatting.
His parents said that Ajmaluddin had no reason to go swimming since he did not know how to swim and claimed it was a case of unnatural death, possibly murder.
The Indian Embassy in Washington meantime sent its First Secretary Alok Pandey and an official from the consulate in Houston to establish contact with the Louisiana State University to ascertain more details and the Indian-American community to render all possible assistance.