Maryland hoteliers’ shooting called example of pandemic tensions

AAHOA said this case, and a similar one from August, relate to a nationwide wave of violence against hoteliers

Police in Elkton, Maryland, said Usha and Dilip Patel were shot during an argument with a guest at their New Eastern Inn last week. They were from Bharthana in India where they were remembered as “joyous and caring.” Photo courtesy of the Times of India.

IN THE U.S., Usha and Dilip Patel, victims of a shooting in their Elkton, Maryland, hotel last week that left Usha dead and her husband wounded, are being touted as the latest example in a trend of violence toward hotel owners and Asian Americans. In their native India, they are being remembered as “joyous and caring” in their home village of Bharthana.

Usha and Dilip, both 59, were shot Friday in the lobby of the Patels’ New Eastern Inn following an argument with a guest, possibly over payment. The guest Hakeem Evans, 26, of Newark, Delaware, had been a guest at the hotel for a couple of days, said Lt. Lawrence Waldridge with the Elkton Police Department.

The incident was caught on surveillance video.

At one point, police say, Evans put a gun between a plexiglass partition separating him from the Patels and fired. Usha was shot in the chest and Dilip was shot in the hip before the gun apparently jammed.

“Evans is then seen running back to his rented room and moments later, flees the area in a vehicle, which was occupied by another person who is not identified at this time,” according to a EPD press release. “Elkton police arrested Evans a few hours later without incident at the Royal Farms Convenience store.”

Evans has been charged with first degree murder, first degree assault, attempted murder and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, according to EPD. He is being held in the Cecil County Detention Center without bond.

Dilip was taken to Christiana Hospital after the shooting where he remains in stable condition, according to the EPD.

The Maryland incident resembles another case in August in which Cleveland, Mississippi, hotelier Yogesh Patel was beaten to death by a guest he had had evicted from his hotel earlier in the day. Both attacks represent an ongoing problem, said Cecil Staton, AAHOA president and CEO, in a statement on the most recent shooting.

“America’s hotel owners are shocked and outraged by this senseless act of violence against two small business owners doing their jobs,” Staton said. “Attacks against hoteliers continue to increase, and this is yet another horrendous episode of violence against Asian Americans that is plaguing our society. It must stop now.”

Staton said the violence is directly connected to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The past year placed undue anxiety, pain, and uncertainty on our nation, yet hoteliers continue to welcome guests into their hotels and their communities,” he said. “This crime compounds the anxieties hotel owners face. Every hotelier knows that something like this could happen to them at any time. Service to others defines the spirit of hospitality, and that is what makes a loss such as this so tragic.”

Usha and Dilip married 40 years ago and moved to the U.S. 20 years ago, according to the Times of India newspaper. The couple worked several jobs to save money to buy their hotel, and they have two sons, Keyur and Kevin, Sarju Patel, a distant relative of the couple who lives in Bharthana told The Times.

“Their sons work with the couple at the motel,” Sarju said.