Reform Lodging, a hospitality industry think tank and advocacy group, is seeking justice for the murder of an Indian American hotelier in Cleveland, Mississippi. Asian Hospitality, a news magazine, reported that Yogesh Patel, who owned the Delta Inn Motel, was beaten to death on Aug. 11, by a guest he had evicted from his hotel earlier that day.
The report said a letter was sent on Aug. 15 to Cleveland Police Chief Charles “Buster” Bingham and two officials from surrounding Bolivar County, Sheriff Kelvin Williams and District Attorney Brenda Mitchell.
“We are absolutely appalled at this heinous criminal act and condemn it in the strongest possible sense,” the letter said. “Our group seeks justice for Mr. Patel and trust that your investigations lead to the immediate apprehension of this dangerous criminal.”
Rich Gandhi, chairman and co-founder of Reform Lodging, told Asian Hospitality magazine that the group is worried that the “case may fall by the wayside.” Gandhi said he “wants justice for Patel’s wife, Sonam, co-owner of the Delta Inn.
“The reason this letter was written was because the police department needed to take swift action against the perpetrator and put [Yogesh Patel] family’s mind at ease,” Gandhi said. “Being an immigrant family, they’ve worked very hard. For them to be in a situation like this, it’s pretty sad.”
Meanwhile, the Cleveland Police Department has arrested Kentarrus Williams in connection with Patel’s death. The Asian Hospitality report said police officers were originally called to Patel’s hotel, on Aug. 11, because “Williams caused a disturbance and damaged the door.” The hotel refunded his money and asked him to leave.”
“Once Mr. Williams left the property officers left the scene,” the report said.
However, they were called back to the scene less than an hour later to find that Patel had been assaulted. A witness told police Williams returned to the room and when Patel came to tell him he had to leave the two began to fight 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, a call reportedly led the police to Williams. Sagar Shah, president and co-founder of Reform Lodging, told Asian Hospitality that Williams has been charged with homicide and is being held on $500,000 bail.
Meanwhile, Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA) president and CEO Cecil P. Staton, in a statement said: “America’s hotel owners are saddened by the sudden and senseless loss of a fellow hotelier and member of the community. He said, “violence has no place in our society, especially at hotels which offer guests comfort and security. This crime has deeply impacted our industry and our members who feel that this could happen to them at any time. No one should live in fear just for doing their job. The hardworking men and women who are America’s hotel owners understand that there is no higher calling than service to others, and that is what makes this loss so tragic. We extend our deepest sympathies to Mr. Patel’s family and employees and hope they will find justice.”
Shah told the Asian Hospitality that “the scenario surrounding the murder is one many hoteliers face regularly.” In November 2017, 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 Talati owned across the street from his Knights Inn. His wife, Mital Talati, took over operating the hotel and in 2018 received recognition and media attention for helping victims of Hurricane Florence.