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In a spasm of violence, Indianapolis faces its third mass shooting in 2021

  • NEW YORK TIMES
                                Crime scene technicians investigate the scene today at a Fedex facility in Indianapolis where a mass shooting occurred Thursday night.

    NEW YORK TIMES

    Crime scene technicians investigate the scene today at a Fedex facility in Indianapolis where a mass shooting occurred Thursday night.

INDIANAPOLIS >> He appeared in the parking lot after dark — a hooded figure with a gun who immediately began spraying bullets in every direction.

He stepped into the FedEx warehouse, a place where he had once worked, and continued shooting, “firing into the open,” according to one witness.

He shouted unintelligibly as he fired off round after round, and then, before police could arrive, he had killed himself, leaving in his wake eight dead and at least seven wounded.

On Thursday night, in a terrifyingly quick spasm of violence, Indianapolis faced its third mass shooting since the start of the year. And a nation already weary from a pandemic grappled with yet another bloody rampage, only weeks after back-to-back mass shootings last month at spas in the Atlanta area and at a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado.

“It is a national embarrassment, what’s going on,” President Joe Biden said in a news conference today, as he repeated his support for a ban on assault weapons. “And it’s not only these mass shootings that are occurring. Every single day, every single day, there’s a mass shooting in the United States if you count all those who are killed out on the streets of our cities and our rural areas. It’s a national embarrassment and must come to an end.”

The mayor of Indianapolis, Joe Hogsett, told reporters of the “scourge of gun violence that has killed far too many” in his city and in the country as a whole. “What we are left with this morning is grief,” he said, “grief for the families of those killed, grief for the employees who have lost their co-workers and grief for the many Americans struggling to understand how tragedies like this continue to occur, again and again.”

The gunman was identified by law enforcement officials Friday as Brandon Scott Hole, a 19-year-old who used to work at the warehouse, and who was already on law enforcement radar.

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 are Sikh provided different spellings and ages: Jasvinder Kaur, 50; Amarjit Sekhon, 49; and Jaswinder Kaur Singh, 70.

Chief Randal Taylor of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department said he had been told that a large number of Sikh employees worked at the FedEx warehouse, and the Sikh Coalition, a national nonprofit group, said on Twitter that at least four of those killed were members of the city’s Sikh community.

Officials described Thursday night’s rampage as unfolding in “just a couple of minutes,” as Deputy Chief Craig McCartt said to reporters.

Around 11 p.m., the gunman arrived at the facility, a huge warehouse lined with truck docks sitting a few miles from the Indianapolis airport. There were at least 100 people inside around that time, McCartt said. It was a shift change, a pause in the night when some head home and others walk out into the parking lot to smoke, have a bite to eat or listen to music in their cars.

Armed with a rifle, the gunman “got out of his car and pretty quickly started some random shooting,” McCartt said. “There was no confrontation with anyone that was there, there was no disturbance, there was no argument. He just appeared to randomly start shooting.”

Calls began coming into the police from several people at the warehouse who described a barrage of gunfire, the police dispatch turning into an account of growing horror. Officers arrived to find people dead and wounded in the parking lot and inside the building. The gunman was among them.

The chaos within the facility, and in the homes of the employees, was intensified by the fact that many employees did not have cellphones with them.

Jim Masilak, a FedEx spokesperson, confirmed today that cellphone access is limited within the warehouse, where packages are sorted for shipping, to minimize distractions. Such policies are common in the industry.

But for family members, not hearing from their loved ones was agonizing.

“From 10 p.m. until 10 a.m. it was a nightmare, a total nightmare,” said Tami Campbell, who was only assured of the survival of her husband, a truck driver at the warehouse, when he called her at the end of his all-night shift. “I called his phone a thousand times even though I knew he wouldn’t have it.”

According to McCartt, Hole, the gunman, last worked at the FedEx warehouse in 2020. The chief said he believed that Hole had worked there until the fall, but he did not know why his employment ended.

In March 2020, Hole’s mother had contacted law enforcement to report that he might attempt “suicide by cop,” Paul Keenan, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Indianapolis office, said in a statement.

The Indianapolis police placed Hole in a “mental health temporary hold,” Keenan said, and he was interviewed by FBI agents “based on items observed in the suspect’s bedroom at that time.” They did not find him to be harboring violent racially motivated ideology, Keenan said, but they did take a shotgun from him, which was never returned.

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