• Sunday, May 22, 2022

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Calls for justice after US hotelier’s death

Cleveland, Mississippi, hotelier Yogesh Patel was beaten to death by a guest he had had evicted from his hotel, the Delta Inn Motel, last week. The advocacy group Reform Lodging wrote a letter to local law enforcement demanding swift justice for Patel on behalf of his wife Sonam and their young daughter.

By: Radhakrishna N S

By Ed Brock
in Atlanta, Georgia

A GROUP of hotel owners in the US state of Mis­sissippi have sought “swift justice” from authori­ties after an Indian American hotelier was beaten to death by a guest he had evicted from his hotel earlier in the day.

Yogesh Patel, 45, from Cleveland, died in hospital of his injuries following the violent assault last Tues­day (11).

The Cleveland Police Department have arrested Kentarrus Williams in connection with Patel’s death. According to a police report, officers were originally called to Patel’s hotel, the Delta Inn Mo­tel, on August 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 them Williams returned to the room and when Patel came to tell him he had to leave, the two got involved in a physical altercation 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 recognised 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 was charged with homicide and is being held on $500,000 (£379,575) bail, according to Sagar Shah, Reform Lodging’s presi­dent and co-founder who was given the informa­tion from the Cleveland police. Reform Lodging bills itself as a hospitality industry think tank and advocacy organisation.

“They have several witnesses who also saw what happened,” Shah said. “They are going to do whatever they can to keep this dangerous crim­inal behind bars.”

A group of Patel’s fellow hotel owners have written a letter to local law enforcement demanding justice.

Reform Lodging last Saturday (15) sent a letter to Cleveland police chief Charles “Buster” Bingham and two officials with surrounding Bolivar County, sheriff Kelvin Williams and district attorney Brenda Mitchell.

They said, “We are absolutely appalled at this heinous criminal act and condemn it in the strongest possible sense. Our group seeks justice for Mr Patel.”

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 [Patel’s] family’s mind at ease,” Gandhi said. “Being an immigrant family, they have worked very hard. For them to be in a situation like this, it’s pretty sad.”

Reform Lodging also 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 added.

“Many hoteliers across the US run into situations where guests need to be evicted for failing to pay their bills or for a multitude of reasons,” Shah said.

“In some cases, this can be a very dangerous exercise for hotel team members, or occasionally the own­er/operator, who is con­ducting the eviction.

“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 as a re­sult of the death of George Floyd at the hands of 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. 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 he owned across the street from his hotel. His wife, Mital Talati, took over operating the facility and in 2018, received recognition and media atten­tion for helping victims of Hurricane Florence.

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