A young man of Indian origin, with a promising future in computer science, is being mourned by his friends and family, following his death July 24, in an armed robbery of the J&S Buy Rite convenience store in Brundidge, Alabama where he was a store clerk.
On the morning of July 24, at 6 a.m., barely minutes after Neil Purush Kumar had opened the store, a man later identified as Leon Terrell Flowers, 23, rushed in, robbed the store and shot Kumar at point blank range. Kumar’s death at a convenience store in a violent robbery is just the latest of many similar tragedies that Indian students suffer by putting themselves in harm’s way working in gas stations and stores to earn extra money during schooling.
Flowers was caught five days later July 29, and charged with capital murder while committing a first-degree robbery, Pike County Sheriff Russell Thomas is quoted saying in news reports (wsfa.com).
Footage of the incident was posted on the Police Department’s website and showed a black man calmly walking in and walking out. It also shows a snippet of a man with a hoodie pulled over his head, rushing into the store brandishing his gun and shooting at the clerk before running through the store.
On July 26, the Brundidge Police Department posted this message on Facebook — “In memory of Neil Purush Kumar a remembrance walk will be Sunday 07-28-2019 at 6:00pm starting at the Piggly Wiggly in Brundidge Al. The walk will conclude at city hall. Following the walk a candlelight service will being at 7:30pm. Please spread the word, and continue to pray for this young mans (sic) family.”
The Pike County Sheriff held a press conference July 29 announcing the arrest. Flowers had been released from prison April 30 this year for good behavior, and was on probation after being imprisoned since 2015, when he pleaded guilty to a charge of manslaughter in the death of 19-year old Mantrell Jordan.
Members of Kumar’s family attended the press conference but did not speak according to a wsfa.com report.
Kumar came to study in the U.S. from Dubai, according to his obituary posted on the Dillard Funeral Home website. Funeral services were held July 28.
Professor Bill Zhong of Troy University, who taught Kumar, told wtvy, the graduate student enrolled in the Masters program would be missed by the community. “He was a very happy person, he’s a happy person, smiled all the time, bright student as well,” Zhong, who is the chair of the Computer Science Department is quoted saying, adding that he was not an ordinary student and exceeded expectations.
One of Kumar’s close friends wrote his remembrance on the Dillard Funeral Home site, saying “Glad to have crossed paths with Neil during my undergrad years, who probably is the most selfless being I’ve ever met. He was the most humble and fun-loving person that anyone could hang around with,” said Ashish Raste, writing from Perth, Australia.
“Always carried with him his curious mind, and the patience to teach and share knowledge with others in unconventional yet effective ways. I’ve learnt a lot from my best buddy and will dearly miss conversing with him about all things technology. I’m sure his outgoing personality has made a huge impact in everyone who has ever met/known him and will continue to bring about positive change in us,” Raste added.
Nitin Mohandas, a family member from Dubai, wrote, “Neil, was like the open blue sky. An affable person, ever ready to help. A gentle smile that would comfort anyone. And a techno savvy mind, which would bring back a device from the dead.”
Classmate Aditya Kiran said, “Many people live for 70+ years, but dissatisfied and for nothing. Neil lived for a mere 30yrs, but still lived life to his fullest!!! We must all learn from him. I was his classmate at SASTRA, and am really lucky to have our paths crossed. Us friends will do our best to carry his spirit and ideologies with us always.”
Another friend from college days at SASTRA University, Santhosh GB, talked highly of Kumar’s technological prowess.
“He was, by far, one of the most humble and down to earth persons I’ve ever met who always had a smile on his face at all times, no matter what.
During the college days, I am glad to have had so many memories which I’ll remember for a lifetime. His perspective on life, his ideologies on how to lead a very simple, yet happy life, was my takeaway from the friendship that I had from college.”
Santhosh GB went on to say, “Neil(whom we lovingly call him as NPK) was an amazing person by character and quite a software geek who was miles ahead of the times, technology wise.”
Troy University issued a student upon Kumar’s death, confirming he was a Masters student. “The Troy University community is shocked and saddened by this act of violence and we extend our deepest condolences to Neil’s family and friends. The Office of International Programs has been in contact with his family and is offering support and assistance.”