INDIANAPOLIS – After eight people were killed and several were injured when a gunman opened fire on workers at FedEx facility last week, the city is once again left to navigate tragedy and its third mass shooting in as many months.
The Thursday night shooting at the FedEx Ground Plainfield Operations Center came amid a string of deadly shooting attacks across the United States. Mass killings have claimed four or more American lives every week for the past six weeks, leaving 48 dead.
Police identified the shooter as a 19-year-old from Indianapolis and said the suspect killed himself inside the FedEx facility before police arrived shortly after the 11 p.m. rampage. No motive has been released in the shooting.
Here’s what we’ve learned about the shooting at FedEx.
Prosecutor addresses red flag law, March 2020 seizure of shotgun
Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears said Monday that authorities seized a shotgun from the suspect, Brandon Scott Hole, in March 2020 under Indiana’s red flag law, but his office did not file a follow up petition because the suspect’s family indicated they did not intend to petition to get the gun back.
The suspect’s mother warned police her son might try to commit “suicide by cop,” FBI Indianapolis Special Agent in Charge Paul Keenan has said. An Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department report from March 3, 2020, references a mental health check for suicidal tendencies and lists Hole, then 18, as being arrested.
Mears said Monday that after the firearm was seized, prosecutors would have had 14 days to file a probable cause petition to ensure that the firearm is not returned. However, the suspect’s family said they would not seek to have the firearm returned, so his office did not file the petition.
Had prosecutors pursued the petition, Mears said his office would have had 14 days to prove to a judge the suspect was unfit to own or purchase weapons. Mears said the standard of the statute includes proving the suspect has a mental illness and is not taking medication or has a “violent propensity or mental instability.”
Mears said Hole was evaluated after his arrest and released by a mental health professional, who did not prescribe him medication.
Had his office pursued the court petition and the judge ruled against them, they would have had to return the firearm.
With no determination from a judge made in the wake of the seizure, Hole was able to purchase assault rifles in July 2020 and September 2020, according to the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. The shotgun seized in March 2020 remains in Marion County’s custody, Mears said.
Mears said the case shows limitations of the state’s red flag law. Had his office filed the follow-up petition, the law does not explicitly prohibit someone from buying additional weapons before the judge rules, he said. Mears also said the 14 day window does not allow prosecutors to adequately subpoena and review someone’s medical history.
Indiana’s red flag law is called the Jake Laird Law in honor of a slain Indianapolis police officer, the red flag legislation approved by the Indiana General Assembly in 2005 allows law enforcement to seize guns from people who are deemed a danger to themselves or others.
If a judge rules against the gun owner, the law prohibits them from purchasing or possessing firearms for a year before another court hearing can be held.
“People hear ‘red flag’ and they think it’s the panacea to all these issues. It’s not. What it is is a good start.” Mears said.
Shooting raises questions about FedEx security
The shooting occurred during a shift change at the FedEx plant, and many workers were either just arriving to the facility or outside on break when the shooting began in the parking lot, workers told IndyStar, part of the USA TODAY Network.
Four victims were found outside the facility. Another four were found inside. The shooting has raised questions about the security of the building, and a number of family members of those killed have called on FedEx to reevaluate its security procedures.
“To FedEx – we want to know why is there no security at the gate?” asked Ramandeep Chohan at a vigil at Monument Circle on Sunday. “Why was no one looking at the security footage while this was occurring? Why do you have more security to protect your merchandise than the people that actually work there?”
FedEx declined to say whether the company is re-evaluating or changing its security measures.
The incident also raised immediate questions about FedEx’s no-phone policy, which left dozens of families early Friday morning waiting hours to hear news of their loved ones.
The company has said the policy aims to reduce distractions in the workplace. It has no plans to rescind the policy.
Who are the victims?
The eight people killed were mothers, grandmothers, sons, daughters and friends. One was a former student, another a volunteer for the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, and another a sister and dog lover. Four were part of Indianapolis’ Sikh community.
Samaria Blackwell, 19, started working at FedEx about two months ago, according to a family friend. Blackwell dreamed of becoming a police officer.
Karli Smith, 19, was a sister and daughter. Smith’s family had last heard from her at 10:59 p.m. Thursday night, according to a Facebook post. They later learned that “she didn’t make it.”
Matthew Alexander, 32, was a former student at Butler University.
Amarjit Sekhon, 48, a mother of two, started working at the FedEx Plainfield Ground facility in November. The mother of two sons, ages 16 and 22, loved to work, her brother-in-law Kuldip Sekhon said.
Jasvinder Kaur, 50, was a mother of two who immigrated to the U.S. in 2018. She planned to celebrate her granddaughter’s second birthday Saturday.
Amarjeet Kaur Johal, 66, was a mother, grandmother and member of the Indianapolis’ Sikh community. According to her grandson’s Twitter, Johal was planning to work a double shift Thursday so she could take Friday off. She later decided to grab her check and go home. He said she still had her check in her hand when they found her.
Jaswinder Singh, 68, recently started working at FedEx and, like others, was collecting his paycheck during the shooting, a nephew told the Washington Post. “He was always positive, always nice and I never saw him angry,” Singh’s nephew told the newspaper. “He would randomly come over to say hi.”
John Weisert, 74, who went by his middle name, Steve, had worked part time as a package handler for about four years at FedEx. He and his wife, Mary, were long-time volunteers at Conner Prairie in Fishers and for the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. They were also train buffs, volunteering for the Indiana Transportation Museum when it was located in Noblesville.
Who was the shooter?
Authorities on Friday identified the suspect as Hole, a former FedEx employee. Police said the Indianapolis man last worked for the company in 2020. He was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound inside the facility. It remains unclear why Hole shot and killed the eight workers.
But Hole was previously known to authorities, according to the FBI.
When Hole’s mother called police in 2020, the Behavioral Health Unit “initiated immediate detention on male reported to have voiced suicidal ideation.” It added that Hole had purchased the gun within the last 24 hours and talked about suicide by police, a situation in which a person prompts police to kill them.
Hole was taken to a local hospital and later interviewed by the FBI in April 2020. No “Racially Motivated Violent Extremism” was identified at the time, officials said, and no criminal violation was found.
What kind of gun was used in the shooting?
Hole used two assault rifles in the massacre, Indianapolis police said Saturday.
The teen bought both guns legally in July and September of last year, but police would not say where Hole bought them, citing the ongoing investigation.
Those purchases came just months after his mother reported the “suicide by cop” incident. Witnesses told Indianapolis police that Hole used both rifles during the shooting.
What has the suspect’s family said?
The shooter’s family on Saturday released a statement apologizing for Hole’s actions and noting they had tried to get him help.
“We are devastated at the loss of life caused as a result of Brandon’s actions; through the love of his family, we tried to get him the help he needed,” the statement reads. “Our sincerest and most heartfelt apologies go out to the victims of this senseless tragedy. We are so sorry for the pain and hurt being felt by their families and the entire Indianapolis community.”
The family declined all interview requests.
What has been done to recognize the victims?
The Indianapolis community held a number of vigils over the weekend to honor the eight victims of Thursday’s FedEx shooting. Family, friends and neighbors of those killed shared memories of their loved ones. But many also used the spaces to call for community action and stronger gun laws.
“It’s not enough to just send thoughts and prayers to the families of the victims,” Rimpi Girn, whose aunt, Jasvinder Kaur, was killed in the FedEx shooting, said Sunday, “We need to see change in the community, change in the legislation and change in the attitude towards the community and gun violence.”
“It’s time that we need raise our voice against the gun laws,” she added. “We need to fix the loopholes in there. It’s time to fill them.”
FedEx donated $500,000 to victims of shooting.Here’s how you can help.
What do we know about Indianapolis’ Sikh community?
Four of the eight victims of the rampage were members of the Sikh community.
There are an estimated 5,000 Sikhs in Central Indiana and 10,000 in the state, according to the Sikh Coalition, who has been outspoken in its condemnation of the Thursday shooting.
Here are some facts about the Sikh community, according to previous reporting by IndyStar.
Are Sikh Muslim? No, they are not. Sikh women wear head scarves and men wear turbans and are sometimes misidentified as Muslims. Sikh activists say that violence against the community spiked after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
They are monotheistic. Sikhs believe in one god and believe in equality among sexes. Sikhism, which originated in northwest India, rejects the caste system and emphasizes service to humanity. The Sikh holy book, Guru Granth Sahib, was written in the 1600s and contains writings by the religion’s 10 gurus, or teachers, who lived from 1469 to 1708.
Why do Sikhs wear turbans? The turban was once only worn by nobility in India. The Sikh religion teaches that all are noble, so all practitioners wear turbans, according to Sikhnet.com.
Sikh temples are open places. The Sikh temple, or gurdwara, is open to visitors and often serves vegetarian meals to visitors and worshipers.
Contributing: Ryan Miller, USA TODAY
Follow reporter Lawrence Andrea on Twitter @lawrencegandrea.