By Cameron McWhirter, Jeffrey Horwitz and Nora Naughton
INDIANAPOLIS -- A 19-year old former employee opened fire at a
FedEx Corp. facility here Thursday night, killing eight people and
wounding several others before taking his own life, in the third
deadly shooting of this scale in the U.S. in recent weeks.
Law-enforcement officials identified the suspect Friday as
Brandon Hole, and said he was temporarily committed last year for
mental-health problems. The Federal Bureau of Investigation also
confiscated a gun from him last year. He worked at FedEx for two
months, from August to October 2020, FedEx said.
Around 11 p.m. Thursday, the suspect arrived at the FedEx Ground
facility's parking lot, got out of his car and started shooting at
people, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Deputy Chief Craig McCartt
said at a news conference Friday morning. The man then entered the
building, shooting at more people before killing himself.
Four people with gunshot wounds were taken to local hospitals,
and a fifth person shot in the attack sought medical attention in
another county, police said. Two others were treated at the scene
and released. Of the deceased, four were found in the parking lot
and four inside the facility.
When police arrived, they found "an active and chaotic crime
scene," Deputy Chief McCartt said. The incident lasted only a few
minutes, and by the time police went inside the facility, "the
situation was over," he said.
Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Chief Randal Taylor said, "When
they arrived on the scene, they found something that really no one
The suspect used a rifle, police said. Police and local FBI
agents were searching a couple of locations and a car related to
Mr. Hole, they said.
According to police, the victims include Matthew Alexander, 32
years old; Samaria Blackwell, 19; Amarjeet Johal, 66; Jasvinder
Kaur, 50; Jaswinder Singh, 68; Amarjit Sekhon, 48; Karli Smith, 19;
and John Weisert, 74.
Among those killed were at least four members of the Sikh
community, according to the Sikh Coalition, a national advocacy
group, and executive director Satjeet Kaur said the coalition is in
touch with law-enforcement officials.
In a statement released by the Sikh coalition late Friday, Komal
Cohan, Ms. Johal's granddaughter, said she has several family
members who work at the FedEx facility.
"My nani, my family and our families should not feel unsafe at
work, at their place of worship, or anywhere," Ms. Komal said.
The Sikh community has been growing in Indianapolis since the
late 1990s, according to a history of the Sikh Satsang of
Indianapolis posted on a website for Butler University, a private
college located in Indianapolis. The local congregation has grown
from 50 to more than 1,000 community members in the last decade,
most of whom are from the Punjab region at the border of India and
Pakistan, the website says. Sikhism is a monotheistic religion
founded in this region in the 1400s.
In March 2020, the suspect's mother contacted law enforcement to
report that he might try to commit "suicide by cop," said Paul
Keenan, special agent in charge of the FBI's Indianapolis field
office. The suspect was temporarily detained by police to determine
whether he met the criteria to be involuntarily committed, and
officials seized a shotgun.
Last April, he was interviewed by the FBI, and no racially
motivated violent extremist ideology was identified during the
course of the assessment and no criminal violation was found, but
his shotgun wasn't returned, Mr. Keenan said.
Facebook said it took down two accounts connected with the
suspect shortly after the shooting at the request of Indianapolis
police, according to an internal Facebook memo reviewed by The Wall
Content on the accounts revealed no clear evidence of a motive
for the attack, the memo stated. It focused mostly on the toy
franchise and children's cartoon series "My Little Pony: Friendship
is Magic." An internet subculture of mostly young men interested in
the show -- who call themselves "Bronies," a mashup of "bro" and
"ponies" -- has existed for years. "Brony online culture has
displayed elements of far-right and white nationalist extremism,"
but there is no clear indication those were motivations in the
shooting, the memo said.
In October 2020, one of the accounts was partially blocked for a
month by Facebook for posting a cartoon "suggesting that Jesus was
reincarnated as Adolf Hitler," according to the memo.
A post timestamped 10:19 p.m., less than an hour before the
shooting, featured an image of the cartoon pony named Applejack. "I
hope that I can be with Applejack in the afterlife, my life has no
meaning without her," the post said. "If there's no afterlife and
she isn't real then my life never mattered anyway."
Indianapolis police said they would continue to explore the
suspect's social media activity but declined to comment further.
Law-enforcement authorities didn't discuss a possible motive
Fred Smith, the founder and chief executive of FedEx, said in a
message to employees Friday it would take some time to understand
what happened in "this senseless act of violence."
In a second message to staff Friday, Mr. Smith identified the
eight staff who were killed and said the shooting occurred in the
parking lot and facility's screening area.
Mr. Smith said the company is cooperating with law enforcement
and providing counselors to local employees and their families.
"What we are left with this morning is grief," said Indianapolis
Mayor Joe Hogsett at the news conference. Among those grieving
include "many Americans struggling to understand how tragedies like
this continue to occur again and again."
Mr. Hogsett, a Democrat, called on political leaders to find
solutions to reduce mass shootings.
"The eyes of the nation are on Indianapolis today in ways that
we would never have hoped for," he said.
Gun control is a priority for President Biden and his aides,
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday. Republicans have
opposed most Democratic gun proposals, though there are more
limited measures that could win bipartisan support.
"Last night and into the morning in Indianapolis, yet again
families had to wait to hear word about the fate of their loved
ones. What a cruel wait and fate that has become too normal and
happens every day somewhere in our nation," Mr. Biden said in a
statement. "Gun violence is an epidemic in America. But we should
not accept it. We must act."
The FedEx facility employs about 875 people and roughly 100 were
at the facility when the shooting took place, a FedEx spokeswoman
said. The 300,000-square-foot package sorting facility operates
multiple shifts a day.
By about 6 p.m. Friday afternoon, the outside of the FedEx
facility was largely quiet, with at least two forensic vans driving
away. Yellow crime-scene tape rimmed the perimeter of the parking
lot, and police were guarding the entrance.
In certain areas of FedEx Ground facilities, only authorized
workers are allowed to have access to their phones, the spokeswoman
said. The policy aims to "minimize potential distractions around
package sortation equipment and dock operations."
Deputy Chief McCartt said the cellphone policy didn't appear to
have delayed reporting the shooting to police. Many employees
didn't have their cellphones after the shooting, which delayed
their ability to reach family members, he said.
"That was certainly frustrating for those employees as well as
their families," he said.
FedEx and UPS facilities have experienced smaller shootings in
recent years. In June 2017, a UPS warehouse worker opened fire
during a morning meeting of delivery drivers in San Francisco,
killing three before turning the gun on himself.
In 2014, a worker at a FedEx facility in suburban Atlanta opened
fire at his workplace, wounding multiple people before killing
In recent weeks, there has been a rash of mass shootings in the
U.S., after comparatively few over the course of the Covid-19
pandemic. On March 16, a gunman killed eight people at spas in the
Atlanta area. Days later, another gunman killed 10 at a supermarket
in Boulder, Colo.
Valerie Bauerlein, Thomas Gryta, Dan Frosch, Zusha Elinson,
Aruna Viswanatha and Jim Oberman contributed to this article.
Write to Cameron McWhirter at firstname.lastname@example.org and Nora
Naughton at Nora.Naughton@wsj.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
April 17, 2021 16:19 ET (20:19 GMT)
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