The latest mass shooting in the US at a FedEx facility struck deeply into the Sikh community in the Indianapolis area after it suffered the loss of four members in the bloody onslaught.
“Our community has a long road of healing physically, mentally and spiritually to recover from this tragedy,” Maninder Singh Walia, a member of the Sikh community in Indianapolis, told CNN Friday evening.
Eight people were killed and several others wounded Thursday night when a former FedEx employee opened fire before taking his own life. Investigators are still trying to determine the motive behind the shooting.
On Friday evening, Indianapolis police released the names of the eight deceased victims. They are: Matthew R. Alexander, 32; Samaria Blackwell, 19; Amarjeet Johal, 66; Jaswinder Kaur, 64; Jaswinder Singh, 68; Amarjit Sekhon, 48; Karli Smith, 19; and John Weisert, 74.
Four of the eight killed were Sikh, Walia said.
The community has grown in Indiana in recent years, he said. When he moved to the area in 1999, about 50 Sikh families were there. Now, the community counts more than 10,000 families, many of whom came to Indianapolis for economic opportunity and good schools, Walia said.
“It’s a tragedy for all of us and we are all family,” he said. “We’re neighbors. We’ll do anything we can to help our city heal in the weeks and months ahead. It’s not like it’s going to away.”
The Sikh Coalition, a US-based advocacy organization, noted that Indiana’s first gurdwara — or Sikh house of worship — was established in 1999. “While we don’t yet know the motive of the shooter, he targeted a facility known to be heavily populated by Sikh employees, and the attack is traumatic for our community as we continue to face senseless violence,” Satjeet Kaur, the Sikh Coalition Executive Director, said.
The attack marks at least the 45th mass shooting in the US since the Atlanta-area spa shootings on March 16. CNN considers an incident to be a mass shooting if four or more people, excluding the gunman, are wounded or killed by gunfire.
It is the United States’ deadliest shooting since 10 people were killed March 22 at a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado.
How the night unfolded
Thursday night’s shooting lasted only a few minutes, according to police.
It began when the gunman “got out of his car, and pretty quickly started some random shooting outside the facility,” Deputy Police Chief Craig McCartt said.
The gunman then “went inside and did not get very far into the facility at all,” while shooting others there, McCartt said.
FedEx employee Laveda Chester told CNN’s “OutFront with Erin Burnett” that she was arriving for her overnight shift when she heard one pop and thought it might be a car accident. She said she looked around and didn’t see one. But then she saw the gunman running toward the building with a rifle in his hand.
She waited until he went in so she could drive away without drawing the gunman’s attention. She went to another parking lot and called police. She said she then tried to warn other arriving workers that there was a shooting going on. Some stopped and some drove past her.
Investigators have heard the shooting lasted “just a couple minutes — that it did not last very long,” McCartt said.
“My understanding is, by the time that officers entered … the situation was over — that the suspect took his life very shortly before officers entered the facility,” McCartt told reporters.
At least 100 people were in the facility when the shooting began, he said. Many were on their dinner break or changing shifts.
Four people were found dead outside and four others, not counting the shooter, were dead inside, McCartt said.
Police looking to understand the motive
McCartt on Friday afternoon identified the gunman as 19-year-old Brandon Hole, who was last employed by FedEx in 2020.
In March 2020, Hole’s mother told law enforcement that he might attempt “suicide by cop,” the FBI’s Indianapolis office said.
Special Agent in Charge Paul Keenan said Hole was placed on an immediate mental health temporary hold by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. He also said a shotgun was seized at Hole’s residence.
“Based on items observed in the suspect’s bedroom at that time, he was interviewed by the FBI in April 2020,” the statement said. “No Racially Motivated Violent Extremism (RMVE) ideology was identified during the course of the assessment and no criminal violation was found. The shotgun was not returned to the suspect.”
McCartt told reporters that Indianapolis police found Hole’s name in two past incident reports. The deputy chief didn’t have information about the first report. The details he described from a 2020 report align with the FBI statement.
When asked what brought the suspected gunman to the FedEx facility Thursday around 11 p.m., McCartt said: “I wish we could answer that.”