August 15, 2005
A young Hindu activist and a computer professional was shot dead at point-blank range in a broad daylight robbery attempt in a park in Houston in Texas, police said.
News of the gruesome murder of Akhil Chopra, 28, has shocked the Indian community in Houston. From Ahmedabad, Akhil, was working in a Houston-based company -- Star Pipe Products -– for past three years. His parents have been intimated about the tragic incident.
Houston Police has announced an award of $5,000 to anyone providing clues leading to the arrest of the assailants. The police said preliminary investigations indicated robbery was the prime motive behind the murder as his wallet was missing.
Though the police has ruled out any hate-crime, it is probably one of the rare incidents, when an Indian has been shot dead in Houston in such a tragic fashion.
Investigator Robert Torris, from Houston Police Department's Homicide Division, who is in-charge of investigations told HindustanTimes.com: "Akhil was shot dead at 4025, Elridge Parkway between 12.45 pm and 1.50 pm on Thursday. There is one gunshot wound in his head."
An active member of the various rightist Hindu organisations -- Hindu Students Council, Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, India Development and Relief Fund, and Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America -– Akhil had gone to the park to meditate after having lunch at his nearby office.
Akhil was apparently shot at point-blank range while he was meditating, police said.
Torris said Akhil's body has been handed over to his friends and relatives after autopsy by the Harris County Medical Examiner. Vijay Pallod, a close friend, said the body would be flown to India for last rites as wished by his parents.
Expressing shock over the incident, Ramesh Bhutada, president of the Star Pipe Products said, he can't believe that someone can kill for a wallet. "This is gruesome," he said. His company made a contribution of $20,000 for Akhil Chopra Memorial Fund set up by his friends.
He was well-known in the Houston Indian community more for the weekly Hindi news bulletin he had introduced for over a year now on a local radio. "We eagerly waited for his Sunday news," said Priyank Jaiswal, a friend. More than 400 people attended a prayer meeting held at Houston in his memory on Sunday.
Akhil's cousin in New Jersey, Pooja Malhotra, said: "I am shocked. We can't believe a day-time murder could happen in America. That too in a park."
Akhil was a key media coordinator of the Global Dharma Conference 2003, held in New Jersey. He was playing a lead role in organising Houston Janmashtami festival this month, Pallod said.
Hindu slain here was admired by friends for his faith, service
He apparently was killed while meditating in park
By TARA DOOLEY
Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle
Friends and co-workers have set up the Akhil Chopra Memorial Fund
under Sewa International with a donation of $20,000 from Star Pipe
Products. The fund will benefit the charities Chopra supported.
Where to send donations
Donations can be sent to the Akhil Chopra Memorial Fund, Bank of
America, Account No. 003255020705, Routing No. 061000052. Checks
can be mailed to: P.O. Box 441505, Houston, Texas 77244. SERVICES
A memorial service and viewing will be held at 4 p.m. Sunday at
Garden Oaks Funeral Home, 13430 Bellaire Blvd. Star Pipe Products
will hold a service at 8 p.m. Monday at it's Keshav Smurti
community center, 4018 Westhollow Parkway, Houston, Texas 77082
Meditation was a ritual of Akhil Chopra's daily life.
He began each morning with prayer and meditation before a small
shrine in his southwest Houston apartment. During the workday, he
might step outside for a moment of silence and calm, his friends
and co-workers said.
They believe the 28-year-old Hindu community leader was meditating
in a park near his office when he was shot and killed Thursday.
Chopra may have been so deeply concentrating that he did not notice
his killer, said Ramesh Bhutada, president of Star Pipe Products,
the company Chopra had worked for since 2002.
"I think after lunch he went there for a moment of quietness,"
Bhutada said. " ... He probably didn't hear it."
Star Pipe employees held a Friday morning memorial service for the
young man many had come to view as family. The workers, some of
whom talked of preparing feasts for his birthday and marveled at
his commitment to faith and community service, placed yellow roses
on the bench where Chopra died.
"I think he was one of the most noble of souls," Bhutada said. "We
were all touched by him. That is a lot for a person to achieve."
Police had no leads Friday in his death, which they believe
occurred during a robbery, said Sgt. Robert Torres, a Houston
Police Department investigator.
Chopra's body was found by a passer-by about 1 p.m. Thursday on a
bench inside a gazebo at Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza Park, on Ashford
Point, not far from Star Pipe offices, Torres said.
Chopra had a gunshot wound to his left temple and a bullet appeared
to have grazed his forehead. His wallet was missing and no gun was
found at the scene, Torres said.
At the time of his death, Chopra's life in America had just started
falling into place, friends said.
Born in India, the young man had come to the United States in 2001
to study for a master's degree at Texas A&M. He was struggling
financially and looking for a summer job when he met Vijay Pallod,
Star Pipe's controller.
Pallod encouraged Chopra to apply for an internship, which turned
into a full-time job offer by the end of the summer.
While working at Star Pipe, Chopra completed a master's degree in
management information systems at the University of St. Thomas in
2003. He recently was promoted into the company's information
systems department and was finally putting his degree to work, his
roommate and co-worker Kirthi Jain said.
"He just continued to blossom and worked so hard to get his
degrees," said Alice Holley, an accounting clerk who sat next to
Chopra for about three years.
He was considering marriage next summer and, according to Indian
tradition, was expecting his parents to suggest a bride, Jain said.
Though only 28, Chopra had made a name for himself as a contributor
to Houston's Indian community. He worked with the Hindu Students
Council, a national organization, and volunteered for a variety of
local groups offering education programs for children and young
Every Sunday he was the voice of the news in Hindi for Sanatan
This year he was one of the primary organizers of the Janamashtami
festival, which celebrates the birth of Lord Krishna. It is one of
the Indian community's largest religious festivals and will be held
at the George R. Brown Convention Center Aug. 27.
For two years, Chopra had participated in the MS150 Bike Tour from
Houston to Austin, which raises money for multiple sclerosis
"He was a very compassionate person just in the way he treated his
fellow workers," Holley said. "He called me Mama ... He'd come to
my desk and say, 'Mama, let me show you something.' "
When he did not return from lunch Thursday, co-workers at Star Pipe
immediately thought something was wrong. By about 4 p.m., Chopra's
immediate supervisor, Girish Naik, decided to see if he was at home
and left the office with Jain to find him.
On the way, they received a cell phone call alerting them that
Chopra's car had been seen at the park. When they arrived at the
park, his car was surrounded by police officers.
"That was when my heart sank," Naik said.
Police ask that anyone with information about Chopra's death call
the Houston Police homicide division at 713-308-3600 or Crime
Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS.
Friday, August 12, 2005
It is with great sorrow that we share the tragic news of Akhil Chopra’s demise yesterday. Akhil, who was 28 years old, was fatally shot by an unidentified robber around noon yesterday while he was meditating in a Houston park.
Akhil Chopra touched the lives of hundreds of Houstonians with his cherubic smile, cheerful demeanor and ever-helpful personality. With a caring, friendly nature, he always had the nicest, most positive things to say about everyone around him at work and his neighborhood. It is no surprise that his co-workers, friends and neighbors, both American and Indian, loved and admired Akhil for his amiable qualities and dedication to all the projects he undertook.
Akhil Chopra was also actively involved with the Hindu Students Council (HSC), Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, Indic Culture And Traditions Seminars (ICATS), India Development & Relief Fund, Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anushandhana Samsthana (SVYASA Yoga), Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA) and several Hindu temples in the Houston area. He read the Sunday news section on the Sanatan Radio Program. He also helped other organizations in Houston, including twice making the MS150 charity bike ride from Houston to Austin.
A talented media-person, Akhil dedicated his life to spreading goodwill and interfaith harmony. He was one of the key media coordinators of the Global Dharma Conference 2003, held in New Jersey. He was also taking the lead role in organizing the Houston Janmashtami festival this year for the benefit of the Indian-American community. A very spiritual and profound scholar for his age, he was also a talented and dedicated yoga teacher. Every Saturday he fasted but continued helping individuals and organizations even while fasting.
Mr. Akhil Chopra came to Houston and joined Star Pipe Products as a summer intern from Texas A&M in June 2002. Impressed with his hard work and dedication, Star Pipe offered him a full-time position. While working at Star Pipe, he completed his MIS degree from the University of St. Thomas.
Akhil is survived by his parents, his brother and his extended family in Ahmedabad, India. He will be terribly missed by the Houston community and beyond. The world is a poorer place today without his angelic presence.
Memorial service and viewing will be held on Sunday from 4-6 p.m at Garden Oaks Funeral Home 13430 Bellaire Blvd Houston TX 77083 281-530-5400
Prayer Meeting will be held on Monday, August 15th at 8 p.m. at Keshav Smurti at Star Pipe Products, 4018 Westhollow Parkway, Houston, Texas 77082 .
A Memorial Fund has been set up under Sewa International – Akhil Chopra Memorial Fund, Bank of America, Account No. 003255020705, Routing No. 061000052. Checks can be mailed to: P.O. Box 441505, Houston, Texas 77244. The Akhil Chopra Memorial Fund will benefit the charities in which he supported, along with his families wishes. Star Pipe Products has made a donation in the amount of $20,000.00 to support his Memorial.
For more information, please log onto: http://www.akhilchopra.com
For grievances, you may contact: Kiran & Ramesh Bhutada at 281-498-8403, Sushma & Vijay Pallod at 281-568-4995, Heena and Girish Naik at 281-851-6866 or Prakash Morolia at 713-582-4233.
CONDOLENCE MESSAGE FROM INTELLIBRIFS
On behalf of Intellibriefs team , and on my own behalf, I extend sincere condolences to the family of Mr.Akhil Chopra, on the sad and tragic demise of a brightest young Hindu activist . We remember his contribution to the Hindu community ,and such activists are rarely seen these days . I also take this opportunity extend profound sympathy to all the Organizations he had associated with ,at this time of sorrow.
IntelliBriefs urge all its readers to contribute to Akhil Chopra Memorial Fund, Bank of America, Account No. 003255020705, Routing No. 061000052. Checks can be mailed to: P.O. Box 441505, Houston, Texas 77244. The Akhil Chopra Memorial Fund will benefit the charities in which he supported, along with his families wishes. Star Pipe Products has made a donation in the amount of $20,000.00 to support his Memorial.
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