FedEx Shooter Purchased Two Rifles Following Police Seizure of His Shotgun, Chief Says
Brandon Hole, 19, had his shotgun taken away in March 2020, records show, after his mother expressed fears about his mental state. However, he was able to buy firearms legally only months later.
Brandon Hole, 19, the 19-year-old man accused of fatally shooting eight people at a FedEx facility on Thursday night, legally bought the two semiautomatic weapons he used in the assault just months after police confiscated a shotgun from him, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department’s chief said Saturday.
Mr. Hole’s shotgun was confiscated by police in March 2020 after his mother expressed fears about his mental state, records show. However, Chief Randal Taylor stated that Mr. Hole’s legal ability to buy firearms in the recent past meant that, despite his mother’s warning and the police seizure of a gun, the authorities had not deemed him subject to Indiana’s so-called red flag rule, which prohibits people from possessing firearms if a judge determines they pose a dangerous risk.
The news came as Indianapolis mourned the deaths of staff at the vast FedEx plant on the city’s southwestern outskirts. The deaths, along with at least seven other gunshot wounds suffered during a shift change on a chilly night, shocked a nation accustomed to mass killings.
At least four of the victims were Sikhs, and the attack reignited fears among American Sikhs, who have been accosted for wearing turbans and targeted in places of worship in the past.
“The shock wave swept through the entire Sikh community,” said Kanwal Prakash Singh, who has seen the Indianapolis-area Sikh population rise from a handful to thousands since his arrival in the late 1960s. “How could a 19-year-old do such a thing to these poor people?” he inquired.
Mr. Hole’s family, who were reported to be former employees at the facility, issued a statement on Saturday apologizing to the victims and stating, “We attempted to get him the support he needed.” According to officials, he committed suicide following the attack. They have not stated whether they believe hate or prejudice played a role in the attack.
Under Indiana’s red flag rule, officials have two weeks after seizing a person’s weapon to argue to a judge that the person is mentally ill and should be temporarily prohibited from owning a firearm. Chief Taylor was uncertain if a similar hearing occurred in the case of Mr. Hole, despite the fact that the police never returned the shotgun they confiscated last year.
“I’m not sure how we did it,” Mr. Taylor said in a Saturday night interview. “However, it’s for the best that we did.”
Mr. Hole, however, the chief continued, “legally purchased a much more effective firearm than a handgun.” The Police Department revealed on Saturday night that Mr. Hole purchased the two assault-style rifles used in Thursday’s attack in July and September of 2020.
These transactions, the chief indicated, would have been necessary only in the absence of a red flag determination. Red flag laws, which are enacted in over a dozen states, became a focal point of the national debate about gun control following the 2018 shooting at a Florida high school.
It is unknown whether a judge overruled a red flag decision in Mr. Hole’s case or whether prosecutors have brought his case before a judge.
The Marion County Prosecutor’s Office did not respond to inquiries about whether Mr. Hole faced a red flag decision. A search of online court records for his name revealed no such event.
A individual is deemed dangerous in Indiana if he “poses an immediate risk” to himself or others, or if he meets some other requirements, such as a known proclivity for violent behavior.
The seizure of arms pursuant to these statutes is often temporary. If the judge determines that the individual is too dangerous to possess firearms, the seizure is upheld and the individual is prohibited from possessing a firearm for a period of months.
And if a judge rules that anyone should be prohibited from possessing weapons, that ruling is only valid for one year. Following that, prosecutors must either re-establish the individual’s unfitness to possess weapons or the ruling is lifted.
Though vigils were held throughout Indianapolis on Saturday, flags atop the Indiana Statehouse were lowered to half-staff. Activists whose families had been affected by gun violence gathered in the parking lot of a Baptist church on the city’s west side to show their solidarity. And for the Sikh community in Central Indiana, which has expanded in recent decades, the magnitude of the losses was overwhelming.
Members of the Sikh community remember the agonizing aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, when, during a surge of anti-Muslim sentiment, some Americans taunted Sikhs with taunts such as “Go home” or “Osama bin Laden.” And Sikhs continue to lament the 2012 assassination of six people at a Wisconsin temple by a white supremacist.
“We don’t know whether this was intentional or coincidental,” Dr. Sukhwinder Singh, 29, a leader at his gurdwara, or Sikh temple southeast of Indianapolis, said. “We are all completely numb. This is a situation that will take weeks to resolve.”
Members of Sikh temples throughout Indianapolis gathered Saturday to mourn, pray, and focus on the shooting’s circumstances. Many of them identified the victims from their group as diligent employees, devoted to their families, and devout followers of their religion, which is known for its tradition of service, which includes aiding victims of natural disasters and coordinating food drives during the coronavirus pandemic.
Numerous Sikhs were among the 875 workers at FedEx’s 300,000-square-foot sorting facility near Indianapolis International Airport, where packages are whisked away into an automated system and digitally screened, weighed, and measured before being shuttled around on a conveyor belt and sorted. A recent work listing for package handlers at the facility advertises an hourly wage of up to $17.
Jaswinder Singh, a young FedEx employee eager to earn his first paycheck, was a regular fixture at a temple in Greenwood, Indiana, where he cut vegetables for temple guests, mopped the floors, and served food. He occasionally stopped by the temple on his way to work.
Harjap Singh Dillon, whose sister was married to one of Jaswinder Singh’s sons, described him as a simple man. “He used to spend a lot of time praying and meditating, and he participated in community service.”
John Weisert, the oldest victim at 74, was a former mechanical engineer who enjoyed playing country, western, and bluegrass music on his guitar, according to his son, Mike. He was contemplating retirement.
“His back was hunched and arched,” Mike Weisert said. “The work was slowly killing him by centimeters. His career was ebbing away, and some of us were concerned.”
Matthew R. Alexander, 32, was a former Butler University student. According to a neighbor, Ryan Sheets, he enjoyed watching St. Louis Cardinals baseball and had worked at FedEx for many years. Mr. Sheets mentioned that he had recently purchased a home in Avon, an Indianapolis suburb.
“Matt was the ideal friend,” Mr. Sheets said. “Without a smidgeon of envy in his body, he was generous.”
Samaria Blackwell, 19, employed as a lifeguard and aspired to be a police officer, according to her parents.
“When she was on the court or soccer field, she wore a tough game face that easily transformed into a smile when she wasn’t competing,” Ms. Blackwell’s parents said in a statement given by a family friend. “Samaria adored people, especially the elderly. She was still willing to invest in the older generation, whether by listening or service.”
Karli Smith, also 19, was a softball player and hip-hop music fan, according to her family. “She was the kind of girl who would go out of her way to make others smile,” her brother, Brandon Smith, recalled.
Amarjit Sekhon was a regular at Sikh services, where she cooked lentils and served food to tourists, according to Jigna Shah, who met Ms. Sekhon through their temple.
Ms. Shah described her as a “very nice girl.” “To our kin, she was like an aunt.”
Rimpi Girn mentioned that her aunt, Ms. Sekhon, relocated to Indiana from Ohio in order to be closer to relatives. Ms. Sekhon started working at FedEx about six months ago on an overnight shift from 11 p.m. to 11 a.m., Ms. Girn said. She is the mother of two boys, ages 14 and 19, Ms. Girn said.
“We have no idea what to say to him,” Ms. Girn said of her younger son. “Last night, his mother abruptly left for college, and she never returned today.”
Ms. Girn was also aware that another survivor, Jasvinder Kaur, had decided to make her popular yogurt for a family birthday party this weekend.
Ms. Kaur had intended to make a yogurt recipe she had mastered for her granddaughter’s second birthday on Saturday and hoped to obtain a driver’s license soon, she said.
“And today, we’re getting together to arrange a funeral,” Ms. Girn continued.
As the Sikh population in Indianapolis has grown over the last few decades, up to ten temples have been established throughout the city and suburbs. A parade commemorating Sikh Day became a fixture on the city’s social calendar. New members of the group began to arrive in Indiana, some directly from India and some from the East and West Coasts.
Another survivor, Amarjeet Kaur Johal, was a grandmother in her sixties who enjoyed watching Indian soap operas. She followed the route to Indiana as the matriarch of her 25-member family. As many others in the group have done, she immigrated to the United States decades ago to be closer to her children and their families, as part of a larger wave of Sikh migration to North America that started in earnest in the 1980s. She lived in California for a time before relocating to Indianapolis.
Ms. Johal, who had worked for FedEx for approximately four years, had worked a half-shift on Thursday and was preparing to celebrate a relative’s birthday when she returned home that evening. She was waiting outside the building for her carpool when she was injured, a grandson said.
“We all told her she didn’t need to work,” Komal Chohan, 25, a granddaughter, said. “She should remain at home and enjoy a carefree existence, spending time with her grandchildren. However, she desired independence, she desired jobs, and she excelled at her job; she developed a community at FedEx.”