An American tourist drowned in a rice paddy in India after being chased by a mob of villagers. Caitanya Holt was mistakenly identified as a thief and chased by an angry mob into a the rice paddy, where he ultimately fell and choked to death on the swampy water.
Caitanya Holt, 30, was declared dead upon arrival at a local hospital. Goa, India, police officers used ropes to pull him from the rice paddy. United States officials are reportedly in contact with their counterparts in India and are gathering information about the death of the American tourist, the Daily Mail reports.
— Gopi Adusumilli (@agk4444) January 14, 2016
The Goa villagers reportedly beat the American tourist and likely caused significant head wounds before the man ran into the rice paddy. Laxmikant Parsekar, the top law enforcement official in the area, told reporters that witnesses said Caitanya had been chased before his death. He too had been told Mr. Holt was chased by people and police before he died.
Pernem police investigators have deemed the case as an “unnatural death” and are reportedly waiting on officials from the U.S. embassy to arrive before moving ahead with an autopsy. Locals said that a series of thefts had occurred in the village lately, and Holt’s behavior made them feel as if he could have been the culprit. Running into homes and grabbing for the key of a scooter driver who could not understand his English might have been a desperate attempt to seek help after getting into a fight with several men in the town.
The American tourist allegedly tried to save his life by running into a home as a place of refuge and kept the bag he was carrying inside the home. Villagers came to believe that the stranger entering the home was a thief and alerted others to his presence. A physical attack and chase ultimately occurred.
“He got afraid and started running. He fell in a paddy field and died after inhaling sludge,” Parsekar added.
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According to Goa police official Umesh Gaonkar, villagers became suspicious of Caitanya Holt when he arrived in the town, CBS News reports. Villagers told police investigators that they had difficulty understanding his English and considered it odd when he stopped several people on the street and went inside some houses on the outskirts of Panaji, the state capital. Gaonkar also said that a laptop was recovered from the American tourist. It remains unclear if the laptop belonged to Holt, or if it was stolen goods.
According to a Nayhind Times report, the some Goa villagers claimed the American tourist attempted to steal a scooter, but others said he was only trying to flag down a driver to take him to the police station after a fight with some Nigerian men. One witness told reporters for the paper that Holt was “totally out of control” and was running “helter skelter” while going to a home to ask for tea. The witness also alleged that the American tourist grabbed for the key from the scooter driver he managed to stop along the road.
All of the activity brought police officers to the scene. The officers reportedly attempted to “pacify the mob,” but the situation continued to spiral out of control, and more law enforcement personnel were called in to help. Caitanya Holt allegedly became aggressive as the policemen tried to help him. It is possible that during the mob scene, the American tourist was not aware of who was touching him. Some witnesses claim that the police officers also engaged in the beating of the accused thief.
Little information has been shared publicly about Caitanya Holt or why he had traveled to Goa, India.
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