Police are standing near the place where several people were shot at the FedEx Ground facility on Friday morning, April 16, 2021, in Indianapolis.
Michael Conroy AP
The 19-year-old attacker who killed eight workers and himself at the FedEx Center in Indianapolis was a former employee who was placed in psychiatric custody last year after his mother reported concerns he could commit “police suicide,” police and the FBI said. .
Four members of the Sikh religious community – three women and a man – were among the dead in a gun rampage on Thursday, according to a local Sikh leader who said the victims’ families had reported him.
Law enforcement officials said they did not immediately determine whether racial or ethnic hatred was behind the killings. But the Sikh civil rights group has called for an investigation into any possible hate bias involved in the crime.
The incident – the latest in a series of at least seven deadly mass shootings in the United States over the past month – occurred at the FedEx operations center near Indianapolis International Airport after 11pm local time, police said.
It lasted only a few minutes and ended as police responded to the scene, Craig McCartt, deputy chief of the Indianapolis Police Department, told an information meeting Friday.
Witnesses described the chaotic attack as armed with a rifle opened fire in the parking lot before entering the facility and continued firing, leaving casualties both inside and outside the building. Police found the suspect dead from an obvious self-inflicted gunshot wound.
A FedEx spokeswoman and police identified the gunman as Brandon Hole, a former employee of the facility. McCartt told reporters the suspect was last seen working at the facility in the fall of 2020.
Asked what brought him back to the facility Thursday night, McCartt replied, “I wish I could answer that.”
The FBI said Indianapolis police temporarily detained mental health in March 2020 after his mother contacted police to report that he could try to commit “police suicide.”
A rifle was then seized from his residence, and based on “items being observed in the suspect’s bedroom at the time,” the FBI interviewed her in April 2020, FBI Special Agent for Indianapolis Paul said in a statement. Keenan.
“During that assessment, no“ racially motivated ideology of violent extremism ”was identified, nor was a criminal violation identified, but the rifle was not returned, Keenan said.
The massacre is the latest in a series of mass shootings in the U.S. that has brought the issue of gun violence back to the forefront.
In Indianapolis alone – the capital of the state of Indiana in the Midwest – two mass shootings have been reported this year. In January, police say a teenager shot and killed four family members and a pregnant woman.
The violence at the FedEx Center on Thursday was the second mass shooting in recent weeks at jobs employing a high concentration of people of Asian descent.
According to Gurinder Singh Khalsi, a businessman and leader of the local Sika community, the Sikhs, whose religion originates from the Punjab region of the Indian subcontinent, made up four of the eight killed and at least one wounded.
Singh Khalsa told Reuters most of the employees at the FedEx site are Sikhs.
The Marion County Coroner’s 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, 74 .
The New York-based Sikh Coalition, which describes itself as the largest Sikh civil rights organization in the United States, said it expects authorities to “conduct a full investigation – including the possibility of bias as a factor.”
Coalition CEO Satjeet Kaur said more than 8,000 Sikh Americans live in Indiana.
The recent sharp rise in mass shootings in the United States began on March 16, when an attacker killed eight people, including six Asian women, in three day spas in the Atlanta area before he was arrested.
That rage has heightened tensions that have already been created over the rise of hate crimes and discrimination against Asian Americans in recent years, fueled in part by racially inflammatory rhetoric about the origins of the coronavirus pandemic in China.
In response to the latest tragedy, U.S. President Joe Biden ordered the flags lowered to half the staff and reiterated his call to Congress to adopt stricter gun restrictions.
“Too many Americans die every day from gun violence,” he said. “It stains our character and pierces the soul of our nation.”
Earlier this month, Biden announced limited measures to combat gun violence that included combating self-installed “ghost guns.” But tougher measures face a tough battle in a divided Congress, where Republican lawmakers have long opposed any new gun restrictions.
In 2021, there were 147 mass shootings, defined as incidents in which at least four people were shot, according to the Arms Violence Archive, a non-profit website that tracks firearms-related incidents.
Friday also marked the 14th anniversary of the deadliest school shooting in American history at Virginia Tech, in which 32 people were killed.
FedEx employee in Indianapolis Olivia Sui texted Reuters that she and some co-workers had just left the building after raising their salaries and sitting in a car in the parking lot when the shots rang out.
“Then I looked back and saw an armed rifle running into the building,” followed by more gunfire, she said. “I panicked and headed back out of the parking lot as fast as I could.”
Another employee, Levi Miller, told NBC’s “Today Show” that he stepped out of sight when he saw a hooded figure holding an AR-style semi-automatic rifle shouting and opening fire in front of the building.
Five people were transferred to hospitals with gunshot wounds, including one in critical condition, police said. Two more were treated on stage and released.
While relatives, friends and fellow employees subsequently gathered at a nearby hotel, some expressed frustration that they could not reach the workers at the location, where company policy prohibits many employees from having cell phones to avoid interference.
In a message to staff, FedEx CEO Frederick Smith said all eight killed were employed.
“I want to express my deepest condolences to the families, friends and associates of these team members,” said Smith, who added that the company is collaborating with investigators.