Gunman who killed Eight at Indianapolis FedEx web site had been detained for psychological sickness
Police stand near the scene where several people were shot dead at the FedEx Ground facility in Indianapolis early Friday morning, April 16, 2021.
Michael Conroy | AP
The 19-year-old gunman, who killed eight workers and himself at a FedEx center in Indianapolis, was a former employee who was put into psychiatric detention last year after his mother raised concerns that he could “commit suicide by police officers” commit, said the police and the FBI.
Four members of the Sikh denomination – three women and one man – were among the dead Thursday night, according to a local Sikh leader who said he was briefed by the victims’ families.
Police officers said they did not immediately determine whether racial or ethnic hatred was behind the killings. However, a Sikh civil rights group called for an investigation into possible hate prejudice linked to the crime.
The incident – the last in a spate of at least seven fatal mass shootings in the United States last month – occurred after 11 p.m. local time at a FedEx operations center near Indianapolis International Airport, police said.
It only took a few minutes and was over by the time police responded to the scene, Indianapolis Police Department deputy chief Craig McCartt told a news conference Friday.
Witnesses reported a chaotic attack when the shooter opened fire with a rifle in the parking lot before entering the facility and continuing to fire, leaving victims both inside and outside the building. The officers found the suspect dead from what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
A FedEx spokeswoman and police identified the shooter as Brandon Hole, a former employee of the facility. McCartt told reporters the suspect last worked at the plant in the fall of 2020.
When asked what got him back to the facility Thursday night, McCartt replied, “I wish I could answer that.”
The FBI said the suspect was temporarily detained by Indianapolis police in March 2020 after his mother contacted law enforcement to report that he might attempt “police suicide”.
A shotgun was then confiscated from his apartment and on the basis of “items observed in the suspect’s bedroom at the time,” he was interviewed by the FBI in April 2020, said Indianapolis FBI Special Agent Paul Keenan in charge an explanation.
“No racially motivated violent extremism ideology” was identified during this assessment and no criminal violation was found, but the shotgun was not returned, Keenan said.
The massacre is the latest in a series of mass shootings in the United States that have once again brought the issue of gun violence to the fore.
In Indianapolis alone, the capital of the state of Indiana in the Midwest, two mass shootings were carried out this year. In January police said a teenager shot dead four family members and a pregnant woman.
The gun violence on Thursday at the FedEx center was the second mass shooting in recent weeks that targeted jobs with a high concentration of people of Asian origin.
Sikhs, whose religion originated in the Punjab region of the Indian subcontinent, were responsible for four of the eight dead and at least one wounded, according to Gurinder Singh Khalsa, a businessman and leader of the local Sikh community.
Singh Khalsa told Reuters the majority of the employees at the FedEx site are Sikh.
The Marion County coroner office later identified the dead as: Matthew Alexander, 32, Samaria Blackwell (19), Amarjeet Johal (66), Jaswinder Kaur (64), Jaswinder Singh (68), Amarjit Sekhon (48), Karli Smith (19) and John Weisert (19). 74.
The New York-based Sikh coalition, which describes itself as the largest Sikh civil rights organization in the United States, expects the authorities to “conduct a thorough investigation – including the possibility of bias as a factor”.
Coalition executive director Satjeet Kaur said more than 8,000 Sikh Americans live in Indiana.
The recent surge in mass shootings in the United States began on March 16 when a gunman shot and killed eight people, including six Asian women, in three day spas in the Atlanta area before he was arrested.
This rampage exacerbated tensions that had already built up over the past few years due to the rise in hate crimes and discrimination against Asian Americans, in part due to racially inflammatory rhetoric about the origins of the coronavirus pandemic in China.
“Defiles Our Character”
In response to the recent tragedy, US President Joe Biden ordered the flags to be lowered to half the staff and reiterated his call for Congress to pass stricter gun restrictions.
“Too many Americans die from gun violence every day,” he said. “It taints our character and permeates the soul of our nation.”
Earlier this month, Biden announced limited measures to combat gun violence, including crackdown on self-organized “ghost guns”. Tougher measures, however, face an uphill battle in a divided Congress in which Republican lawmakers have long spoken out against new weapon limits.
According to the Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit website that records incidents related to firearms, there were 147 mass shootings in 2021, which were defined as incidents in which at least four people were shot dead.
Friday marked the 14th anniversary of the deadliest shootout in US history at Virginia Tech, killing 32 people.
Olivia Sui, a FedEx employee in Indianapolis, texted Reuters that she and some employees had just left the building after picking up their paychecks and were in a car in the parking lot when gunfire rang out.
“I looked around and saw the shooter run into the building with a rifle,” followed by more shots, she said. “I panicked and started backing up from the parking lot as fast as I could.”
Another employee, Levi Miller, told NBC’s Today Show that he was out of sight when he saw a hooded figure with an AR-style semi-automatic rifle screaming in front of the facility and opening fire.
Five people were taken to hospitals with gunshot wounds, including one in critical condition, police said. Two more were treated on the spot and released.
When the staff’s relatives, friends and colleagues later gathered at a nearby hotel, some expressed frustration at not being able to reach the local staff, where company policies prevent many employees from having cell phones to avoid distractions .
In a message to employees, FedEx chief executive officer Frederick Smith said all eight people killed were employees.
“I would like to express my deepest condolences to the families, friends and employees of these team members,” said Smith, who added that the company works with investigators.