With the nation still in shock from the killing of an Indian engineer Feb. 22, an Indian American businessman who was well-liked in his neighborhood was shot dead outside his home in Lancaster, South Carolina, on the night of Mar. 2.

Harnish Patel, 43, had closed his shop at 11:24 p.m. and barely 10 minutes later was shot dead outside his house, according to media reports.

Patel's death comes two days after President Donald Trump had said the nation condemned as "hate and evil" the killing of Srinivas Kuchibhotla, who was shot dead in a bar in Olathe, Kansas, by a white man who screamed, "Get out of my country.”

Local officials in Lancaster said they do not believe that Patel's killing was a hate crime and that investigations are continuing, according to The Herald.

"I don't have any reason to believe that this was racially motivated," County Sheriff Barry Faile said Mar. 3.

Patel's store was near the sheriff's office and deputies often frequented the store.

Faile said on TV that Patel was a "great family man" and a friend. 

The station said that Patel is survived by his wife and child in elementary school, who were at home when he was killed.

People had created an impromptu shrine outside Patel's Speedee Mart store by leaving balloons and flowers in his memory, the station said.

"Investigators believe he drove from the store directly home, where he was confronted by his killer when he got out of the vehicle," a police statement said.

The store is between three and four miles from the house.

WSOCTV said that in Lancaster there was a lot of anger over the killing of Patel, who was considered an important member of the community and a kind person who treated his customers as friends and helped law enforcement.

A sign on the shop door read, "Store closed for few days because of family emergency. Sorry for the inconvenience."

A tearful customer, Nicole Jones, told the station that when someone didn't have money, Patel gave them food. "I would have no idea who would do this to him as good as he is to everybody," she said.

A store employee, Keira Baskin, said that he only wanted the best for his employees and his family.

On the night of Mar. 2, a woman called the police and said that she heard screaming and gunshots and when sheriff's deputies arrived, they found Patel dead from apparent gunshot wounds a few feet from his house, WBTV reported.

The person who called 911 told the operator she heard screaming and gunshots near White Oak Manor. Patel lived across the street from the long-term care facility.

Police found two shell casings at the crime scene. A police dog, however, could not pick up any scent to follow from there, WSOCTV reported.

An IANS report from New Delhi adds: The Indian Consulate in Atlanta, Georgia, has deputed an official to meet the family of Harnish Patel, it was learnt Mar. 4.

"CGI Atlanta is in touch with the family. It is deputing a consular official to meet the family and offer condolences and any required assistance," a source here said.

The mission, it is learnt, is also in touch with the local community organization of expatriate Indians, including those from Gujarat.

"Local authorities are investigating. We will remain in touch with them," the source said.

(With IANS and AP reports)

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