“Our community has come a long way in healing physically, mentally and spiritually to recover from this tragedy,” Maninder Singh Walia, a member of the Indianapolis Sikh community, told CNN on Friday evening.
Indianapolis police announced the names of eight deceased victims on Friday evening. They are: Matthew R. Alexander, 32; Samaria Blackwell, 19; Amarjeet Johal, 66; Jasvinder Kaur, 50; Jaswinder Singh, 68; Amarjit Sekhon, 48; Karli Smith, 19; and John Weisert, 74.
Four of the eight killed were Sikhs, Walia said.
The Indiana church has grown in recent years, he said. When he moved to the area in 1999, there were about 50 Sikh families there. Hundreds more families have since arrived and many Sikhs have come to Indianapolis looking for economic opportunities and good schools, Walia said.
The Sikh Coalition, a US-based advocacy group, said Indiana’s first Gurdwara – or Sikh House of Worship – was established in 1999. The state now has 10 Gurdwaras and around 8,000 to 10,000 Sikh Americans, the coalition said.
Unknown rifle motif
“It is a tragedy for all of us and we are all family members,” said Walia. “We are neighbors. We will do everything we can to help our city heal in the coming weeks and months. It is not like it is going away.”
Although the rifle’s motive is not yet known, “it was targeting a facility known to be heavily populated by Sikh workers and the attack is traumatic for our community as we continue to experience senseless violence,” said Satjeet Kaur, general manager of the Sikh coalition.
That sentiment was corroborated in a letter to the Biden administration on Saturday in which the Sikh coalition wrote, “It was no accident that the shooter aimed at this particular FedEx facility where he had worked and knew they were was mostly occupied by Sikhs. ”
“The people who were shot were not random targets,” said the coalition. “As such, we ask the government to see that this shooting is not simply dismissed by the media or law enforcement, and to acknowledge what it is – a deliberate act that is said to cause the greatest harm to various Americans.”
The Sikh belief was founded in the Indian region of Punjab. Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar tweeted that he was “deeply shocked” by Thursday’s shooting, and that the Indian consulate in Chicago had contacted the Indianapolis mayor and local authorities. “Will provide any help,” Jaishankar tweeted as well. The attack marks at least the 45th mass shooting in the US since the Spa shootings in the Atlanta area on March 16. CNN regards an incident as a mass shooting when four or more people, excluding the armed man, are wounded or killed by gunfire.
It is The deadliest shooting in the United States in 10 people was killed on March 22nd at a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado.
Friends and relatives remember the victims
Sekhon and Kaur were relatively new to Indianapolis, working night shifts at the FedEx facility when they were killed, said Rimpi Girn, an Indianapolis resident who knew them.
After Sekhon immigrated to the United States in 2004, he moved from Ohio to Indiana in 2019 to be closer to family and relatives, said Girn, a close family friend.
Sekhon leaves behind a husband and two sons aged 13 and 19, Girn said.
Kaur, who immigrated to the United States in 2018, was her family’s breadwinner, according to Girn.
Sekhon drove Kaur to work because Kaur didn’t have a driver’s license, Girn said.
“They didn’t want to work night shifts anymore,” and they were looking for day shifts at FedEx, Girn said.
Weisert would have celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary this fall, his widow Mary Carol Weisert told CNN subsidiary WTHR. He worked at FedEx for about four and a half years, she said.
“He’s just a package handler. A retired professional engineer (previously) but after he retired he wanted to keep working. We had some things we had to pay off so he took this job,” she told WTHR.
Alexander was a graduate of Butler University, said the Indianapolis school.
“The butler community is in mourning for Matthew Alexander,” the university said on Twitter. “We wish to express our deepest condolences to Matthew’s friends and families at this time of great sadness.”
Samaria Blackwell was the “baby of our family,” her parents said in a statement, describing her as a “fun-loving, caring daughter” who was “persistent in everything she did”, whether she played football or basketball or was a lifeguard .
“As an intelligent, straight student, Samaria could have done anything she set out to do,” said Jeff and Tammi Blackwell, “and because she loved helping people, she dreamed of becoming a police officer.”
How the night turned out
The shooting on Thursday evening lasted only a few minutes, according to police.
It started when the shooter “got out of his car and ran random shots off the facility pretty quickly,” said assistant police chief Craig McCartt.
The gunman then “went in and didn’t get far into the facility” while shooting others there, McCartt said.
FedEx employee Laveda Chester told CNN’s OutFront with Erin Burnett that she was in her car in front of the building when she heard a bang.
“I thought it was a car accident, but when I saw the shooter running to the front door with his rifle, I immediately pulled out of the parking lot and called the police,” Chester said.
She waited for him to go inside so she could drive away without attracting the gunman’s attention. She called the police from another parking lot and said she was trying to warn other arriving workers about a shootout. Some stopped and others drove past her.
Investigators heard that the shooting “only lasted a few minutes – that it didn’t last very long,” McCartt said.
“My understanding is that by the time the officers walked in … the situation was over – the suspect took his life just before entering the facility,” McCartt told reporters.
At least 100 people were there at the facility when the shooting started, he said. Many were on their lunch break or changed shifts.
Four people were found dead outside and four others, excluding the shooter, were dead inside, McCartt said.
The police say they are trying to understand the motive
McCartt identified the shooter Friday afternoon as 19-year-old Brandon Hole, who last worked at FedEx in 2020.
In March 2020, Hole’s mother told law enforcement that he could attempt “police suicide,” the FBI’s Indianapolis office said.
Special Agent in charge Paul Keenan said Hole had been temporarily taken to a mental emergency room by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. He also said that a shotgun was confiscated from Hole’s apartment.
“Based on items seen in the suspect’s bedroom at the time, he was interviewed by the FBI in April 2020,” the statement said. “During the course of the assessment, no Racial Motivated Violent Extremism (RMVE) ideology was identified 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 previous incident reports. The deputy chief had no information about the first report. The details he outlined in a 2020 report are in line with the FBI’s statement.
When asked what got the suspected shooter into the FedEx facility around 11 p.m. Thursday, McCartt said, “I wish we could answer that.”
Police announced on Saturday that Hole had purchased two guns that were legally used in the attack.
“During the incident on Thursday, suspect Brandon Hole was seen using assault rifles,” the department said. “ATF conducted a trail on the two guns. IMPD learned that Brandon Hole had legally purchased the rifles in July and September 2020.” In a statement to CNN subsidiary WRTV on Saturday, Hole’s family said they were “devastated by the loss of life as a result of Brandon’s actions, through his family’s love we tried to provide him with the help he needed.
“Our most sincere and heartfelt apologies to the victims of this senseless tragedy,” the statement said. “We are so sorry for the pain and injury felt by their families and the entire Indianapolis community.”
Correction: In an earlier version of this story, the name and age of the shooting victim Jasvinder Kaur, 50, were incorrectly stated based on information from the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.
CNN’s Steve Almasy, Dakin Andone, Jason Carroll, Meredith Edwards, Jason Hanna, Kay Jones, LaCrisha McAllister, Evan Perez, Shimon Prokupecz, and Amanda Watts contributed to this report.