Connecticut hotelier Zeshan Chaudhry is the latest in a series of violent crimes against Asian American hotel owners, usually by guests at their properties. This time, the 33-year-old owner of a Motel 6 on Hartford Turnpike in Vernon, Connecticut, was shot and killed after a dispute with a guest over a $10 pool pass.
On June 27, Chaudhry had a confrontation with a female guest and her boyfriend, 31-year-old Alvin Waugh, of Hartford, Connecticut, over the $10 price of a pool pass at the hotel, according to arrest documents. Waugh joined the argument and at one point Chaudhry kicked the couple out of the motel and told the staff to lock them out of their room. That’s when Waugh left the pool area and returned to his room. He then returned with a gun and after arguing with Chaudhry again, shot the motel owner several times, according to the arrest affidavit.
Domingo Gonzalez, the motel’s head of maintenance, told NBC Connecticut that he is still trying to make sense of how a fight about a pool pass ended with a murder. “He just tried to give everybody the benefit of the doubt and he gave one person, the wrong person the benefit of the doubt,” said Gonzalez. “That’s why he’s not here now.” According to Gonzalez, Chaudhry charged $5 for a pool fee for hotel guests and $10 for non-guests. Gonzalez said Waugh’s girlfriend was the official hotel guest was told to pay $10 because Chaudhry “knew who the pass was really for.”
Another motel employee, who wished to remain anonymous told NBC Connecticut that Chaudhry was all about the customers, trying to give them a better experience in the hotel.
Waugh ran from the scene after the shooting and ended up in the woods about a mile away. While police were at the motel, Waugh called his girlfriend and talked to officers, saying he wanted to turn himself in. Police took him into custody and found the gun in a body of water where Waugh told them he tossed it, according to the court documents. According to officials, the gun was homemade. Chaudhry was transported to the hospital, where he was later pronounced dead. Police said the shooting was captured on surveillance camera and it was revealed in court that there were multiple eyewitnesses.
Once under arrest, police said Waugh confessed to the killing, according to the arrest affidavit. Waugh is facing charges including murder, criminal use of a weapon, use of a firearm for a felony, carrying a firearm without a permit, tampering with physical evidence, reckless endangerment, and risk of injury. He appeared in court on June 28, where a judge ordered him held on a $2 million bond. Waugh and his girlfriend had been staying at the motel for about a month, according to court documents. Gonzalez told NBC Connecticut that Chaudry was just trying to run a business. “He was all about the customers, trying to give them a better experience in our hotel.”
Chaudhry’s shooting is part of a tragic pattern, said Ken Greene, interim AAHOA (Asian American Hotel Owners Association) president and CEO, in a press statement. “A life taken over a $10 pool pass dispute. When will the violence end? America’s hotel owners are shocked and outraged by this senseless act of violence against a small business owner simply doing his job,” Greene said. “Chaudhry was only 30 years old when he was shot multiple times on Sunday. He had a long life ahead of him, and we offer our deepest sympathies to his family, and our community is mourning with them today. Hate has no place in our members’ hotels, or in any hotels.”
Greene said there has been an increase in attacks against hoteliers and anti-Asian xenophobia during the pandemic. “Hoteliers have already been through a very stressful year and a half dealing with the setbacks of the COVID-19 pandemic. These types of crimes add another layer of unnecessary anxiety and stress. Every hotelier knows that something like this could happen to them at any time. No one should ever feel threatened at work. For trying to make a living. And over a pool pass? It is unacceptable,” Greene said.
The senseless shooting is the latest example of the danger hotel owners and employees face when simply trying to do their job, Sagar Shah, Reform Lodging president, and co-founder, told NBC Connecticut, reiterating that he doesn’t want to see anyone else killed. “Zeshan was protecting the interests of his property, which was met with an unfathomable ending, a young life cut short from gun violence. While the perpetrator was apprehended by local authorities, it does not change the appalling nature of this crime, the demise of a human life all over a pool pass, in the presence of young children,” Shah said.
“Hotel owners and their associates have been on the front lines throughout the COVID-19pandemic. The ongoing, disastrous labor shortage means that owners stand toe to toe with their employees, lending a helping hand in daily operations, but also assuming greater risks. We are acutely aware that tragedies like this can occur to any of our organization’s members or other hoteliers across the country.” Shah also urged hoteliers to remain cautious.
“With the post-pandemic summer travel season in full swing, we ask owners and hotel associates to please remain vigilant, practice situational awareness and conflict resolution, and lean on law enforcement when the situation warrants,” Shah said. “Do not take matters, as simple as they may appear, into your own hands if there is even the slightest risk of violent confrontation.”
In March, Usha and Dilip Patel were shot in their Elkton, Maryland, hotel following an argument with a guest. Usha was killed and Dilip was hospitalized. Last August, Cleveland, Mississippi, hotelier Yogesh Patel was beaten to death by a guest he had evicted from his hotel earlier in the day.