Oklahoma hotel owner dead after assault

Mistry is the second Indo American hotelier to die from on-duty violence this year

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Hemant Shantilal Mistry, 59, left, an Indo American hotel owner and AAHOA member, died on June 23 after an assault in his Oklahoma City motel parking lot. Richard Lewis, 41, right, was arrested in connection with the attack in which police say he punched Mistry, who died from the impact. Photos courtesy of India Today, Oklahoma City Free Press, and Oklahoma City Police Department.

OKLAHOMA CITY HOTELIER Hemant Shantilal Mistry died on June 23 following an assault in his motel parking lot the previous night. Richard Lewis, 41, was arrested in connection with the attack in which police say he punched Mistry, who died from the impact.

Mistry, 59, an AAHOA member, is the second Indo American hotelier this year to die from on-duty violence following the murder of Pravin R. Patel, owner of the Hillcrest Motel in Sheffield, Alabama, in February.

A video of the assault has gone viral on social media, showing Mistry in a white t-shirt arguing with Lewis in a sky blue t-shirt. The argument escalates, culminating in Lewis punching Mistry in the face. Mistry collapses as Lewis walks away. Police found Mistry unconscious around 10:00 pm and transported him to a nearby hospital, where he died at 7:40 pm the following day from his injuries, according to a police report.

Lewis was apprehended at a hotel on S. Meridian Avenue and is held at the Oklahoma County Jail on a $100,000 bond, facing charges of aggravated assault and battery, Oklahoma City Free Press reported.

Mistry, from Bilimora, Gujarat, was an active member of the Gujarati Samaj of Oklahoma Inc., where he led the donation campaign, according to Hindustan Times.

One of Mistry’s close friends, Jyoti Mistry, posted on Facebook, mourning his untimely death: “Miss you, dear friend Hemant Mistry. You have always been generous and loving to everyone.”

“Your sudden absence has left a gaping hole in our hearts. We are consumed by grief but cherish the memories you left behind. I will never forget our last dinner together, not even two weeks ago, where we relived the moments of our lives.”

AAHOA condemned the incident, drawing parallels to Patel’s murder, and urged hoteliers to prioritize safety protocols and avoid handling confrontational situations independently.

“Our hearts go out to Hemant’s family, including his wife and children,” said Miraj Patel, AAHOA’s chairman. “For many AAHOA Members, hotels are not just businesses; they are homes and places of refuge. It is unimaginable to our community that such a senseless act of violence could occur. As someone who grew up in my family’s hotel in Texas, I understand the fear and dread that comes with such violent situations.”

Safety first

AAHOA urged hoteliers to prioritize safety protocols and advised engaging law enforcement during confrontational situations to mitigate risks to personal safety. This recommendation aligns with the Surgeon General’s recent report on escalating gun violence, emphasizing the importance of heightened vigilance and professional intervention to prevent unnecessary loss of innocent lives.

“Our hearts are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of one of our beloved members,” said Laura Lee Blake, AAHOA’s president and CEO. “Incidents like these are profoundly distressing for all involved. Our prayers are with Hemant’s family and loved ones during this incredibly challenging period. AAHOA is committed to honoring Hemant’s life by raising awareness to prevent future violence.”

Miraj said he has received numerous calls and texts from the hotelier community seeking ways to combat such violence on their properties. In response, AAHOA is accelerating the development of educational resources to help hotel owners minimize conflict and prevent violent incidents by teaching effective de-escalation techniques.

“We will strive to honor Hemant’s life by promoting the importance of hotel safety and security and advocating for laws and policies that protect business owners and their communities,” said Miraj. “If our collective efforts can prevent this from happening to even one family in the future, we know our work will not be in vain and that Hemant’s legacy will live on in the AAHOA Community and beyond.”

In 2021, Usha and Dilip Patel were shot in their Elkton, Maryland, hotel following an argument with a guest. Usha was killed, and Dilip was hospitalized. In the same year, a shooting at a Motel 6 in Vernon, Connecticut, killed the 30-year-old owner, Zeshan Chaudhry, after an argument with a guest over a $10 pool pass. In 2020, Cleveland, Mississippi, hotelier Yogesh Patel was beaten to death by a guest he had evicted from the Delta Inn Motel.