LAST WEEK, CLEVELAND, Mississippi, hotelier Yogesh Patel was beaten to death by a guest he had had evicted from his hotel earlier in the day. Now a group of his fellow hotel owners have written a letter to local law enforcement demanding swift justice.
The group, Reform Lodging, sent the letter to Cleveland Police Chief Charles “Buster” Bingham and two officials with surrounding Bolivar County, Sheriff Kelvin Williams and District Attorney Brenda Mitchell, on Aug. 15.
“We are absolutely appalled at this heinous criminal act and condemn it in the strongest possible sense,” the letter said. “Our group seeks justice for Mr. Patel and trust that your investigations lead to the immediate apprehension of this dangerous criminal.”
The Cleveland Police Department has arrested Kentarrus Williams in connection with Patel’s death. According to a police report, officers were originally called to 45-year-old Patel’s hotel, the Delta Inn Motel, on Aug. 11 because Williams caused a disturbance and damaged the door. The hotel refunded his money and asked him to leave.
“Officers had Mr. Williams gather his belongings from the room and leave the property,” the report said. “Once Mr. Williams left the property officers left the scene.”
Police were called back to the scene less than an hour later to find that Patel had been assaulted. A witness told police Williams returned to the room and when Patel came to tell him he had to leave the two began to fight until Williams hit Patel with a bottle.
Patel was airlifted to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in nearby Jackson, Mississippi, where he later succumbed to his injuries.
The next day, police received a call that there was a fight at the Delta Inn involving guns. While there was no fight occurring, the responding officer traced the call to a Rodeway Inn near the Delta Inn because he recognized the voice of the caller as Williams. After a brief investigation they found Williams staying in a room at the Rodeway Inn and took him into custody.
Williams has been charged with homicide and is being held on $500,000 bail, according to Sagar Shah, Reform Lodging’s president and co-founder who received the information from the Cleveland police.
“They have several witnesses who also saw what happened,” Sha said. “They are going to do whatever they can to keep this dangerous criminal behind bars.”
It is Reform Lodging’s concern that the case may fall by the wayside, said Rich Gandhi, the group’s chairman and co-founder. He wants justice for Patel’s wife and co-owner of the Delta Inn Sonam.
“The reason this letter was written was because the police department needed to take swift action against the perpetrator and put [Yogesh Patel’s] family’s mind at ease,” Gandhi said. “Being an immigrant family, they’ve worked very hard. For them to be in a situation like this, it’s pretty sad.”
Reform Lodging, which bills itself as a hospitality industry think tank and advocacy organization, wants to have a dialogue with local officials about Patel’s murder, Shah said. The scenario surrounding the murder is one many hoteliers face regularly, he said.
“Many hoteliers across the U.S. run into situations where guests need to be evicted for failing to pay their bills or for a multitude of reasons. In some cases, this can be a very dangerous exercise for hotel team members, or occasionally the owner/operator, who is conducting the eviction,” Shah said. “We are of the opinion that law enforcement should always be on standby when this occurs, especially if the former guest returns on site.”
Recent protests over police brutality brought on by the death of George Floyd at the hands of four police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25 have complicated police response to such situations, Shah said.
“We’re living in extremely sensitive times where law enforcement have to be more careful with how they approach situations and I think due to that, some areas may see an uptick in crime unfortunately,” Shah said. “This concerns us very much.”
The story is similar to an incident in November 2017 when Akash Talati, owner of a Knights Inn in Fayetteville, North Carolina. was killed in a shootout between an armed intruder and a security guard at a club Talati owned across the street from his Knights Inn. His wife, Mital Talati, took over operating the hotel and in 2018 received recognition and media attention for helping victims of Hurricane Florence.