INDIANAPOLIS — Officials with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department identified the eight victims of the mass shooting at a FedEx warehouse in Indianapolis on Friday night, more than 20 hours after the gunman opened fire on Thursday.
Families of people who worked at the warehouse were gathered at a hotel in the hours after the shooting, waiting for news. FedEx employees are not allowed to use their phones on the floor of the warehouse, complicating the reuniting of employees and their loved ones.
The victims were identified by the police as 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. Some family members of victims who were Sikh provided different spellings and ages: Jasvinder Kaur, 50; Amarjit Sekhon, 49; and Jaswinder Singh, 70.
Officials said the gunman, a 19-year-old, was a former employee of the company whose mother had warned law enforcement officials last year that he might try to attempt “suicide by cop.” An F.B.I. special agent confirmed that the gunman had been interviewed by federal agents in April 2020, and that he was put on an “immediate detention mental health temporary hold.”
He was not charged with a crime, and the agent said that a shotgun was not returned to him.
As families waited for word of their loved ones, reports emerged that the FedEx facility was the workplace for many Sikh employees, some of whom were among the dead. “We are sad to confirm that at least four of those killed in Thursday night’s attacks are members of the Indianapolis Sikh community,” the Sikh Coalition, a national nonprofit organization, said on Twitter.
Two of the victims, Ms. Kaur and Ms. Sekhon, commuted to work at the FedEx facility together, said Rimpi Girn, a family member. Ms. Kaur was the mother of Ms. Girn’s sister-in-law and moved to the United States from India three years ago. Ms. Sekhon, who was Ms. Girn’s aunt, moved to Indianapolis from Ohio to be closer to family.
The violence in Indianapolis comes only weeks after mass shootings last month at spas in the Atlanta area and at a grocery store in Boulder, Colo., renewing pressure on lawmakers in Washington to address America’s deep-seated problem with gun violence.
Officials used a common word — “another” — to define the tragedy.
“This is another heartbreaking day, and I’m shaken by the mass shooting at the FedEx Ground facility in Indianapolis,” Gov. Eric Holcomb of Indiana said.
Mayor Joe Hogsett of Indianapolis condemned the “horrific news of yet another mass shooting, an act of violence that senselessly claimed the lives of eight of our neighbors.”
President Biden, speaking at a news conference with the prime minister of Japan, expressed support for stronger gun control measures, including universal background checks and an assault weapon ban, but said it was up to Senate Republicans to take up legislation.
“This has to end,” he said, condemning mass shootings and daily gun violence in the United States. “It is a national embarrassment.”
“Who in God’s name needs a weapon that can hold a hundred rounds? Or 40 rounds? Or 20 rounds?” he said, referring to the military-style weapons often used in such attacks. “It’s just wrong. And I’m not going to give up until it’s done. ”
The gunman was identified by law enforcement officials on Friday as Brandon Scott Hole, a 19-year-old who used to work at the warehouse, and who was already on law enforcement radar.
Mr. Hole last worked at the FedEx facility in 2020, perhaps as recently as the fall of last year, said Deputy Chief Craig McCartt of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. He said he did not know why Mr. Hole stopped working there, and FedEx referred questions to the Indianapolis police.
The authorities described a chaotic scene at the FedEx facility late Thursday, when gunfire erupted about 11 p.m.
Mr. Hole arrived at the facility and quickly started shooting in the parking lot, without an immediate confrontation, officials said. “He just appeared to randomly start shooting,” said Chief McCartt, who said there were at least 100 people at the FedEx location at the time, including many who were changing shifts and on their dinner break.
He continued shooting inside the building, and eight people were fatally shot, the authorities said. Five others were taken to hospitals with gunshot or shrapnel wounds, including one in critical condition who was expected to survive, the authorities said. Two others were treated at the scene and released.
An employee at the facility said 11 p.m. was a time when employees typically take a break, and many relax in the parking lot. “Most go to their cars to listen to music, smoke a cigarette, eat some food,” said the employee, D.J. Boyles, 23, who said he has worked as a package handler there for almost five years.
Kamal Jawandha, who said his parents both worked at the warehouse and were there at the time of the shooting, said his father was bringing his mother food and getting ready to go inside when the shooting started. His mother hid in the bathroom. “She’s in deep sadness,” he said of his mother. “She could not sleep. She just can’t stop shaking. She can’t believe this kind of thing would happen here.”
F.B.I. agents helped local law enforcement officials search a home in Indianapolis associated with the suspect on Friday, said Chris Bavender, an F.B.I. spokeswoman in Indianapolis. Officials seized evidence that included desktop computers and other electronic media.
The FedEx sorting facility where the shooting occurred is on the city’s southwest side, near the airport.
The atmosphere was fraught at a nearby hotel on Friday as families of workers at the facility waited for word about loved ones, many of whom were not allowed to have their cellphones at work.
The names of the eight victims in the Indianapolis shooting were released on Friday night. This is a breaking story and will be updated. Here is what we know about them so far.
Mr. Singh had just started working at the FedEx facility this week and had told everyone how excited he was to get his first paycheck, according to Harjap Singh Dillon, whose sister was married to one of Mr. Singh’s sons. He was working the night shift sorting mail.
“He was going to get his first check,” Mr. Dillon said. “He didn’t get it.”
Mr. Singh lived with his son in the Indianapolis suburb of Homecoming, near their local temple. He was quite active doing community service with his temple, Mr. Dillon said. Mr. Singh had lived in California before moving to Indiana, he said.
“We are a very close family,” Mr. Dillon said. “We didn’t know he had been working last night.”
The authorities said Mr. Singh was 68, while his family said he was 70.
“He was a simple man,” Mr. Dillon said. “He used to pray and meditate a lot, and he did community service.”
Ms. Sekhon moved to Indiana from Ohio to be closer to family. She leaves behind two sons, ages 14 and 19, according to Rimpi Girn, a niece.
She began working at FedEx about six months ago on an overnight shift from 11 p.m. to 11 a.m. A large part of the Sikh community worked at FedEx, Ms. Girn said.
Ms. Girn said she had struggled to explain the loss to Ms. Sekhon’s youngest teenage son.
“We can’t even think of what to tell him,” Ms. Girn said. “All of a sudden last night his mom went to work, and she never came back today.”
Officials said Ms. Sekhon’s age was 48. Her family said it was 49.
Ms. Kaur was supposed to make her renowned yogurt at a large family celebration for her granddaughter’s second birthday on Saturday. Ms. Kaur is the mother of Ms. Girn’s sister-in-law.
“And today we’re gathering to plan a funeral,” she said.
At a Sunday gathering, Ms. Kaur had asked Ms. Girn to help her get a driver’s license since she was traveling to her night shifts at FedEx with Ms. Sekhon.
“No more license for her,” she said. “That’s it. It was just talk. She doesn’t need a license for anything now.”
The authorities said Ms. Kaur was 64. Her family said she was 50.
Well-groomed and punctual, Mr. Weisert had been an Air Force officer during the Vietnam era, according to his son, Mike Weisert. He then had an itinerant career as a mechanical engineer, working across the country for companies such as Pratt & Whitney and Brown & Root, and traveling to Kuwait for a job in the mid-2000s, Mike Weisert said.
But Mr. Weisert, who was 74, had also been the victim of downsizing, his son said.
About four years ago, he took a job as a part-time package handler at FedEx, working the evening shift “to make ends meet,” his son said. Recently, his wife of nearly 50 years, Mary Carol Weisert, had been pressuring him to retire, and Mr. Weisert had talked about leaving the job next month or taking the summer off, Mike Weisert said.
“She didn’t like him being over 74 years old and getting to be as weak as he was,” Mike Weisert said. “He was hunched and arched over with his back. The job was killing him by inches, slowly. His career had been winding down and some of us were worried.”
Mike Weisert remembered his father as “somewhat of an introvert,” who had “kind of a goofy, cornball sense of humor about him.”
He liked to play country and western and bluegrass music on guitar and watch wrestling on TV. He also loved action movies and classic films. “Lawrence of Arabia” was a particular favorite.
In addition to his son, he also had a daughter, Lisa, who lives in Seattle.
“He was a very decent, kind man, very dedicated to protecting and providing for the ones he loved,” Mike Weisert said.
At least four of the eight victims of the Thursday night shooting were part of the local Sikh community, many of them drawn to the Indianapolis area to take jobs at places like the FedEx warehouse that was attacked.
The warehouse employed many Sikhs, and on Friday, relatives confirmed the deaths of Jasvinder Kaur, 50; Amarjit Sekhon, 49; Jaswinder Singh, 70; and Amarjeet Johal, 66.
In a statement from the Sikh Coalition, a granddaughter of Ms. Johal’s, Komal Chohan, said that she had several family members who worked at the warehouse and that she was heartbroken about “the senseless shooting.”
“My nani, my family and our families should not feel unsafe at work, at their place of worship, or anywhere,” she said. “Enough is enough — our community has been through enough trauma.”
Although the motive of the gunman is unknown, local leaders said his actions generated fear similar to what many Sikhs felt after the Sept. 11 attacks, when they were confused for Muslims, and after a 2012 rampage by a white supremacist, who killed six people at a gurdwara, or Sikh temple, in Oak Creek, Wis.
“We don’t know whether this was targeted or a coincidence,” said Dr. Sukhwinder Singh, 29, a leader at his gurdwara, or Sikh temple southeast of Indianapolis. “We are all so numb. This is something that will take weeks to process.”
The Sikh community in Indianapolis has grown in recent years. The Sikh Satsang of Indianapolis, a large gurdwara, was built about 20 years ago, and has grown from about 50 families to about 1,000 members, according to the Center for Faith and Vocation at Butler University.
The community is known for its long history of service, supporting victims of natural disasters and, during the coronavirus pandemic, organizing food drives and grocery delivery for older people. An annual Sikh day parade started in Indianapolis about six years ago.
The Sikh temples in the Indianapolis area, Dr. Singh said, will hold special prayer services for mourning and discuss whether they need to take any action to protect community members.
The exact size of the Sikh population in the United States is hard to determine, but estimates suggest that there are several hundred thousand members. According to the Sikh Coalition, about 10,000 Sikh Americans have made Indiana their home over the past 50 years.
Kanwal Prakash Singh was one of the first to arrive, moving to Indianapolis in 1967. Over the decades, he worked for the local government, built a business, served on the police merit board and watched the area’s Sikh population grow by the thousands.
Sikhs had come to feel at home in Indiana, he said. But over the years, there were difficult times, especially after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“No matter where you went, somebody yelled at you ‘Osama bin Laden’ or somebody yelled at you ‘Go home,’” Mr. Singh said.
Still, the community continued to grow, with many Sikhs moving to the Midwest from the coasts. Some became doctors or police officers, while many others worked in trucking or transportation or operated gas stations.
They raised families, attended temple, worked hard.
Then on Friday morning, just after 6 a.m., the police called Mr. Singh.
“The shockwave went through the entire Sikh community,” he said.
In an interview on NBC’s “Today” show on Friday, Levi Miller, who works at the FedEx facility, said he was eating on a bench outside with his co-workers when he heard several gunshots from inside. When he stood up from the bench, he saw a hooded man holding a rifle.
“He started shouting, and then he started firing at random directions,” Mr. Miller said. “I thought he saw me, and so I immediately ducked for cover.”
Mr. Miller said he could not understand what the gunman was yelling and that he could not see in detail the face of the suspect, but that he had heard from co-workers that the man was an employee. Officials have not released the gunman’s identity, but FedEx confirmed he was a former employee.
“I saw a man, a hooded figured … the man did have an AR in his hand, and he starting shouting and then he started firing.”
Levi Miller, who works at the FedEx building where a gunman killed at least eight people before taking his own life, tells us about what he experienced. pic.twitter.com/67uLyasWAJ
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) April 16, 2021
A reporter with WRTV, an Indianapolis station, posted an interview on Twitter with a man who said he had been at the facility when the shooting broke out and later saw a body on the floor.
WISH, another local station, quoted an employee at the warehouse, Jeremiah Miller, as saying that he had heard up to 10 shots after finishing his shift.
“This made me stand up and actually look out the entrance door, and I saw a man with a submachine gun of some sort, an automatic rifle, and he was firing in the open,” Mr. Miller told the station.
Courtney Crown, a reporter with a Fox News affiliate in Indianapolis, posted another interview with a man who said his niece had been hospitalized after being shot in the left arm when the shooting broke out.
For family members agonizing over the fate of their loved ones who were working inside the FedEx facility where a shooting occurred late Thursday, the usual means of contacting them was cut off: Many did not have their cellphones.
Deputy Chief Craig McCartt of the Indianapolis Police Department told CNN that many employees could not contact their families after the fatal shooting, exacerbating the distress of relatives who were waiting for updates.
Jim Masilak, a FedEx spokesman, confirmed on Friday morning that cellphone access is limited within the facility, where packages are sorted for shipping, to minimize distractions. Such policies are common in the industry, where distractions could prove harmful to workers and disrupt the fast-paced, highly automated operations.
Christina Valor said she had learned about the shooting from news reports and had not been able to reach one of her husband’s sisters who worked at the facility. She was waiting for an update Friday morning at a nearby Holiday Inn Express, where the authorities told family members to gather.
“We’re hoping for the best,” Ms. Valor said. “But we don’t know anything.”
Tammy Campbell, who said her husband works at the FedEx facility, criticized the no-cellphone policy on the local Fox television station on Friday morning while waiting for word about him. She said she was told that he was fine but would not be able to talk to him until his shift was over.
“They need a different type of policy where you can contact your employee or allow them to have their cellphones,” she told the station.
Typically when a truck arrives at a facility like the one where the shooting occurred, FedEx employees unload the packages by hand. From there, the parcels enter a fast-paced and automated system where they are scanned, shuttled around by conveyor belt and sorted. They may then be loaded back onto vehicles to be shipped either to their final destination or another facility.
“Fast-moving machinery and belts zip those packages around like crazy,” said Dean Macuiba, a managing partner at Last Mile Experts, a shipping consulting firm. “You can’t be distracted for a second, you could get hurt.”
Mr. Masilak said on Friday that FedEx was cooperating with the authorities. “We are deeply shocked and saddened by the loss of our team members following the tragic shooting at our FedEx Ground facility in Indianapolis,” he said. “Our most heartfelt sympathies are with all those affected by this senseless act of violence.”
The 19-year-old gunman who opened fire at a FedEx warehouse in Indianapolis late Thursday, killing eight people, was previously reported to law enforcement by his mother, who warned them last year that her son might attempt “suicide by cop,” officials said.
The news of the gunman’s previous encounter with law enforcement — including the seizure of a shotgun from him last year — punctuated a day of suspense and grief on Friday.
A law enforcement official, requesting anonymity, identified the suspect as Brandon Scott Hole, a former employee of the company. Mr. Hole was armed with a rifle during the attack and later killed himself, officials said.
Paul Keenan, special agent in charge of the F.B.I. field office in Indianapolis, said Mr. Hole had been interviewed by federal agents in April of last year. After the teenager’s mother reported him to law enforcement in March 2020, the authorities opened an investigation and put him on an “immediate detention mental health temporary hold,” Mr. Keenan said in a statement.
The shotgun was not returned, but he was not charged with a crime.
The companies that own the warehouses, distribution centers and sorting facilities that power the economy go to great lengths to secure their facilities, but such measures are sometimes not enough to stop a shooting like the one at the 300,000-square foot FedEx Ground facility in Indianapolis.
The gunman was a former employee at the sorting station, FedEx said. About a hundred employees were present at the time of the shooting and it isn’t yet clear how the gunman was able to enter the facility with a weapon.
In a statement, FedEx said employee safety is a top priority. The company has a team of security experts and employees receive annual training on workplace violence and are taught to report unusual or suspicious activity.
“We are going to be taking a hard look at what happened here,” the company said in a statement. “Once the facts are known and the investigation is concluded, we will make any necessary enhancements to our current processes as appropriate.”
FedEx declined to discuss its safety procedures in detail, but facilities like the one where the shooting occurred typically have tight security to protect the people, machinery and packages, according to industry officials.
Large sorting centers are often located away from city centers and down remote access roads. The premises are usually surrounded by fencing. And visitors and employees alike are required to present identification and submit to being scanned with metal detectors.
“I just can’t imagine they can do anything more with security than what they have,” said Satish Jindel, a logistics consultant who worked at the start-up that became FedEx Ground and has advised FedEx, UPS and others.
But that screening typically happens at the entrance of buildings. Visitors and employees typically do not have to drive through security gates before they can park their cars. Local officials said the gunman at the FedEx facility started shooting after getting out of his car in the parking lot.
A FedEx employee who worked unloading boxes at a large logistics hub near Columbus, Ohio until late March and spoke on the condition his name not be used because he is not authorized to speak publicly said that security at the Columbus facility was fairly rigorous. He said that each one of the several hundred people working on a shift would have to pass through a metal detector on their way inside, and that employees typically tried to arrive 10 or 15 minutes early so that they would not be late as a result of this process. He said there was a security guard who walked through the facility during his shift as well as security cameras.
But the employee said that bags were inspected manually, not using a machine, and that it’s possible that someone could hide a firearm in the bottom of a lunchbox, particularly if they were well known to security and did not otherwise arouse suspicion.
President Biden pledged to “do more” to address gun violence and implored Congress to act after a mass shooting in Indianapolis left eight people dead. But his administration, scrambling to respond to a new cycle of violence, rejected calls to appoint a gun “czar” to more forcefully confront the crisis.
At a news conference on Friday with the Japanese prime minister, Mr. Biden called gun violence across the country “a national embarrassment” and urged Senate Republicans to allow a vote on a gun control bill that has already passed the House.
“This has to end,” he said. “Who in God’s name needs a weapon that can hold 100 rounds or 40 rounds or 20 rounds? It’s just wrong.”
In an earlier statement, Mr. Biden said he had been briefed on the attack in Indianapolis on Thursday, in which “a lone gunman murdered eight people and wounded several more in the dark of night.” He ordered flags lowered to half-staff just two weeks after he had given a similar directive in response to massacres in Atlanta and Boulder.
“Gun violence is an epidemic in America,” he said. “But we should not accept it. We must act. We can, and must, do more to act and to save lives. God bless the eight fellow Americans we lost in Indianapolis and their loved ones, and we pray for the wounded for their recovery.”
His press secretary, Jen Psaki, rejected suggestions that Mr. Biden appoint a gun czar, similar to the position he created to address the climate crisis. The White House argued that the main impediment to addressing the crisis was congressional Republicans, not a lack of will in the West Wing.
“I would say that advocates should pressure Republicans in the Senate, that all of you should pressure Republicans in the Senate and ask them why they are opposing universal background checks,” Ms. Psaki said after a reporter suggested that Mr. Biden was “passing the buck” by blaming Republicans.
Despite the apparent gridlock, there are signs that things might be changing.
Mr. Biden is moving ahead with several narrow executive actions, and there are new negotiations on Capitol Hill for an expansion of background checks — aided by the financial collapse of the National Rifle Association.
Among the most consequential actions so far is a personnel move: Mr. Biden has chosen David Chipman, a former federal law enforcement official, to be the new head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, a battered agency tasked with enforcing existing federal gun laws and executive actions.
Over the years, N.R.A.-allied lawmakers have handcuffed the A.T.F. with the tightest restrictions imposed on any federal law enforcement agency, even banning the bureau from making gun tracing records searchable by computer.
The agency has been without a full-time director for much of the last 25 years because N.R.A.-allied senators have quashed nominations by both Republican and Democratic administrations, arguing that a strong agency leader threatens the Second Amendment.
Mr. Chipman is an unapologetic proponent of expanding background checks, banning assault weapons again and unshackling A.T.F. inspectors.
White House officials are hopeful he can garner as many as 52 votes for confirmation given the disgust over the recent shootings. Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, the most conservative Democrat on guns, has expressed tentative support, and two Republicans, Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania, are open to the pick, according to Senate Republican aides with knowledge of their thinking.
Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, Democrats of Connecticut, have been reaching out to Republicans in hopes of passing a narrower background check bill than the universal-checks measure passed by House Democrats earlier this year. Background checks are extremely popular in national polls.
Mr. Biden, adopting a tone of disgust and frustration, unveiled two relatively modest executive actions last week: a 60-day review of homemade, unregistered “ghost guns” that is likely to lead to a ban, and a measure eliminating arm braces used to turn pistols into short-barreled rifles, a proposal rejected by the Trump administration.
The attack in Indianapolis on Thursday came after a spate of mass shootings across the United States in recent weeks:
In mid-March, eight people were shot to death at three massage parlors in the Atlanta area, raising fears that the crimes may have targeted people of Asian descent.
Less than a week later, 10 people were killed when a gunman opened fire at a grocery store in Boulder, Colo.
At the end of March, a gunman killed four people, including a 9-year-old boy, at a real estate office in Southern California.
Last week, a neighbor shot and killed a doctor, the doctor’s wife and their two grandchildren inside their house in Rock Hill, S.C., as well as an air-conditioning technician who was working outside the home. A sixth person who was shot later died.
In an eerie reminder of the ongoing toll of mass shootings in the United States, Friday is the 14th anniversary of the massacre at Virginia Tech, when a gunman killed 33 people in what was then the deadliest shooting rampage in the nation’s history.