By Nora Naughton and Rebecca Davis O'Brien
INDIANAPOLIS -- Vigils sprung up across the city Saturday for
the eight victims of a mass shooting, as law-enforcement officials
in the city continued to investigate the shooter's motives.
Brandon Hole, a 19-year-old former employee of FedEx Corp.,
killed eight people and wounded several others before taking his
own life at the company's ground facility here Thursday night,
police said. Mr. Hole had been temporarily committed last year for
mental-health problems, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation
confiscated a gun from him last year, authorities said.
Late Friday, police identified those who died in the shooting:
Matthew Alexander, 32 years old; Samaria Blackwell, 19; Amarjeet
Kaur Johal, 66; Jasvinder Kaur, 50; Sardar Jaswinder Singh, 68;
Amarjit Sekhon, 48; Karli Smith, 19; and John Weisert, 74.
Among those killed were four members of the Sikh community. The
Sikh Coalition, a national advocacy group, said it was in touch
with law-enforcement and government officials, pushing for a
thorough investigation into the shooter's motive and changes that
would protect minority communities.
As with the shootings last month in Atlanta -- in which six of
the eight victims were women of Asian descent -- the preponderance
of Sikh victims in Thursday's shooting raised questions about
whether the attack was motivated by ethnic or religious animus.
"We fully expect that authorities should and will conduct a full
investigation -- including the possibility of bias as a factor,"
the coalition said in a statement.
"We are not ruling out any motive at this time," Paul Keenan,
special agent in charge of the FBI's Indianapolis office, said in a
statement. The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department is
leading the investigation, he said.
"The FBI continues to work with IMPD and other law enforcement
partners to find a motive for this senseless act of violence, and
will be meticulous and thorough in our investigation and devote as
much time as needed to find answers for the victims' families," Mr.
At least three vigils were planned in the area Saturday,
including a candlelight vigil at Krannert Park.
Saturday afternoon, a few dozen people gathered for a prayer
vigil in the parking lot of the Olivet Missionary Baptist church on
the west side of Indianapolis. Among the attendees were members of
the gun-control activist group Moms Demand Action, a member of
Indiana's Asian American Alliance and a handful of Indianapolis
mothers who have recently lost children or family members to gun
Kendra Ford said her 21-year-old son and her two nephews died in
a shooting related to a robbery in February last year, and she
still recalls waiting to find out if her son had died. Those
feelings were rekindled Thursday night during the shooting at the
FedEx facility, just down the road from where Ms. Ford works
sorting mail for the post office.
Ms. Ford could see the police lights and hear the sirens from
her office. On her way home, she said, she thought of the families
waiting to find out about their loved ones and began to cry behind
"It's just so hurtful knowing that these people had to go
through this, and those men and women were just at work," Ms. Ford
said. On Friday, she said she left work early because she was
afraid of another attack.
"I just could not be there thinking, 'What if somebody walked in
here?'" she said.
Rupal Thanawala, president of the Asian American Alliance, wiped
away tears during a prayer for the victims of the shooting at the
start of the vigil. Afterward, she said the Asian American
community is very "hurt and fearful" at the moment, noting that she
doesn't always wear her bindi in public when she feels she must
"Hate crimes are not new to Asians," said Ms. Thanawala, a
25-year Indianapolis resident originally from Mumbai. "This is the
way we have been living for years now."
Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears, a Democrat whose office
oversees Indianapolis, called for a thorough investigation into the
shooting and said the state needs a hate crime law. "One of the
tools I need is a hate crime law, and this incident just
underscores that," he said in an interview.
Indiana is one of five states that doesn't have a criminal hate
crime statute. In 2019, the governor signed legislation allowing
judges to impose longer sentences for crimes motivated by bias, but
the law has been criticized by Democrats and civil-rights
organizations for being discretionary and for not listing protected
K.P. Singh, a local designer and longtime member of
Indianapolis's Sikh community, said he was working with faith
leaders to organize a service Sunday at the Sikh Satsang of
Indianapolis that would honor all the victims of Thursday's
"I hope we can come together and start thinking about what steps
we can take to keep all of our families, neighborhoods, schools and
workplaces safe -- not a month or a year from now, but right now,"
Mr. Singh 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 past decade,
most of whom are from the Punjab region on the border of India and
Pakistan, the website says.
Sikhism is a monotheistic religion founded in India in the
1400s. Because some Sikhs wear turbans, they sometimes are confused
with Muslims, and some Sikhs have been the targets for violence or
harassment in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
In 2012, a white supremacist attacked a Sikh temple in Oak
Creek, Wis., killing six people and then himself. The incident is
still raw among Sikhs in the U.S.
Thursday night's attack was the fourth public mass shooting in
the U.S. in which four or more people were killed this year,
according to the Violence Project, a mass shooting database
maintained by two university professors. When domestic violence and
gang-related attacks are added, there have been a total of 11
shootings in which four or more people were killed this year,
according to the Violence Project.
Saturday afternoon, on the other side of the city from the FedEx
facility where the shooting took place, gun enthusiasts gathered at
a gun and knife show at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Some said
they were concerned that Mr. Hole had a gun after being
"I absolutely believe in background checks, and they should be
stronger, " said 24-year-old Christian Ritchey of Avon, Ind., as he
walked out of the Indy 1500 Gun & Knife Show.
Another attendee, Dr. Leo D'Ambrosio, said he is more concerned
about access to mental-health care.
"It's far more important to make mental-health care accessible
to all Americans than any form of gun control," Dr. D'Ambrosio
Write to Nora Naughton at Nora.Naughton@wsj.com and Rebecca
Davis O'Brien at Rebecca.OBrien@wsj.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
April 17, 2021 21:12 ET (01:12 GMT)
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