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UMKC addresses campus fears after murder of international student

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -  Monday, Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith announced 25-year-old Marlin Mack, the gunman killed by police Sunday,  had previously been considered a suspect in the murder of a UMKC graduate student from India.

UMKC's Chancellor came to America from India to study. Now he along with other organizations on campus are trying to make sure international students don't let the shooting death of Sharath Koppu keep them from their dreams.

A map on Andrew Bell's wall shows every place people were born who have visited his home. Many of those thumbtacks are placed on India. He works with International Students Incorporated, a ministry serving international college students from the time they arrive on campus.

"There's a lot of isolation there's loneliness they are missing home," Bell said.

But this month he says that feeling of separation has  been replaced by a much stronger emotion among UMKC international students.

"There's shock there's sadness but there's also the fear of am I safe here?"

Koppu was killed in an attempted robbery  at J's Fish and Chicken Market near 54th Street and Prospect July 6th.

Kansas City Police don't believe it was racially motivated, but Bell says the murder triggered many of the same fears students felt after two Indian men were shot at Austins Bar and Grill in Olathe last year.

"I pray that his family experiences the same love and support that I did when my own Srinu was taken from me at the hands of a murderer," Kuchibhotla's widow Sunayana Dumala said.

UMKC Chancellor C. Mauli Agrawal authored a letter to students which said, "I want to give you my personal assurance that the University of Missouri-Kansas City is a very safe place to pursue an outstanding education, for domestic and international students alike.  I understand your concern. The tragic death of Sharath Koppu has affected us all. But it is important to remember that Sharath was in no way targeted for his ethnicity. Unfortunately, violent street crime is a fact of life in most large cities around the world – a risk that is real, but one that can be minimized by taking prudent steps."

Organizations like International Students Inc. are still working on plans to make sure students feel like it is going forward.

"When something like this happens the grieving isn't over when the vigil is over, they don't start feeling safe because they had a vigil. So we have to keep walking with them, and continue to cultivate a safe community," Bell said.