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Rediff.com  » News » Bobby Jindal mourns LSU murders; hopes for swift justice

Bobby Jindal mourns LSU murders; hopes for swift justice

December 19, 2007 11:21 IST

Louisiana's Republican Governor-elect, Piyush 'Bobby' Jindal, has broken his silence over the murder of the two Indian graduate students on the Louisiana State University campus in Baton Rouge last week, and said he hopes the perpetrators of this horrific crime will be brought to justice soon.

Jindal's spokeswoman Melissa Sellers in a statement provided to rediff.com in response to a query on the murders of Komma Chandrasekhar Reddy, 31, from Kurnool and Allam Kiran Kumar, 33, from Hyderabad, said, 'I know the police are continuing their investigation to ensure that whoever committed these horrible crimes is swiftly brought to justice.'

'Supriya (Jindal's wife) and I continue to pray for the victims and their families, and everyone who has been affected by this tragedy,' it added.

Earlier, Jindal had provided the same statement to the local television station WBRZ News and the newspaper The Advocate.

Incumbent Democratic Governor Kathleen Blanco, whom Jindal will succeed on January 14 when he is officially sworn in on the steps of the State Capitol in Baton Rouge, had also earlier issued a similar statement saying that she was praying for the victims, their families and all others affected by the killings.

Blanco also urged LSU as well as other educational institutions across this Cajun state to review their campus safety and security plans, saying,

'We must continue this effort, including regular testing of communication systems, to ensure adequate notification is in place to keep our students and faculty safe.'

During the fall 2007 semester, LSU, which is a sprawling campus that sits on over 2,000 acres in the southern part of Baton Rouge and has 250 principal buildings, had a total of 1,468 international students enrolled, 332 of whom were from India and constituted the largest group of international students from a single country. The university's total enrollment for the fall semester was 28,019.

The Edward Gay Apartments, the graduate housing where Kumar was a resident with his pregnant wife, Komma, and his friend Reddy was visiting, when they were both shot in the head and killed on December 13, has a total of 288 residents, 94 per cent of whom are international students, and Nicholson Apartments, which is also graduate housing for the majority of married and international students, have a total of 814 residents, 75 per cent of whom are international students.

At the request of the victims' families, the LSU said it was not releasing photos of the two graduate students whose bodies, which were kept in a local funeral home since Sunday, were scheduled to be flown back to their native state of Andhra Pradesh on Thursday.

The Indian Student Association at LSU had held a memorial service for the two students in the Union Cotillion Ballroom on the campus on December 14 and another on December 16 at the Rabenhorst Funeral Home after the arrival of the families of both men who arrived over the weekend and had already left back to India with Reddy's wife.

The LSU Foundation also established a special fund to assist the students' families and while trained social workers and counselors from the LSU Mental Health Service were made available for family and friends of the victims and for any members of the LSU community.

The two government of India officials -- Alok Pandey, first secretary at the Indian embassy in Washington, DC and KP Pillai, Indian consul in Houston -- who were immediately dispatched to Baton Rouge to assist the families of the victims and other Indian students, are working in concert with University authorities, including LSU Chancellor Sean O'Keefe and others, till the bodies of the Reddy and Kiran were flown back to India.

Baton Rouge Mayor-President Melvin 'Kip' Holden also met with the two Indian officials and also attended the memorial service at the funeral home and assured them and the mourners that the city would not rest till the killers are brought to justice.

He also held a press conference on December 17 and urged local residents to come forward with any information they may have and to cooperate fully with the police.

"The other day, it was somebody else. Today or tomorrow, it could be you," he said.

Indian Ambassador Ronen Sen, who had earlier spoken to O'Keefe on Sunday, also had spoken to Kiran's father, Rajiah Allam, shortly after he arrived in Baton Rouge and condoled with him and assured him of all support and assistance from the Indian government to him and his family during this tragic time.

LSU had lowered the American flag on the Parade Ground to half-staff in honor of the two students and was to stay that way until 4.30 pm on Friday. The Task Force led by the LSU Police Department and including the Baton Rouge Police Department, the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office and the Louisiana State Police, with assistance from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, had released sketches of two of the four suspects who were being sought for the murders of the two students.

Sheila Thorne, the FBI official who heads up the nearest field office in New Orleans-about an hour's drive from Baton Rouge, told rediff.com that the FBI was not part of the Task Force and that the investigation was not a federal investigation.

"I know we always offer our assistance, but we would never be the lead in it," she said, and added, "only if it became a federal investigation would the FBI take the lead and only then would we put anything out in the form of an announcement."

But, Thorne acknowledged that 'we do assist the local, state and other federal agencies wherever we can, whether it be evidence response or laboratory or whatever kind of assistance we might be able to render because we have the resources. But we don't typically go out there announcing who we're helping -that would be up to them (the Task Force.'

Kristine Calongne, a spokeswoman for the LSU PD, told rediff.com that the killings had occurred even as LSU was 'in the process of getting additional security cameras around the campus and the Edward Gay Apartment Complex was on that list to receive security cameras. They have now been bumped up on the list and they will be getting them very quickly.'

She said, "The LSU police has also doubled its presence on the campus just to make sure everything on campus is safe and secure."

"We have also had meetings with residents of that apartment complex to get feedback from them on suggestions for safety and things like that," Calongne added.

Meanwhile, the Art of Living Foundation, has scheduled a free workshop on stress and trauma relief in the wake of the killings in conjunction with the Indian Students Association of LSU, and AOL founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar himself was expected to lead the workshop slated for December 19 through December 22, where the relaxation breathing technique that he created -- Sudarshan Kriya (using specific rhythms of breath) -- would be taught to the participants.

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC