INDIANAPOLIS — One of the latest mass shootings may also be a hate crime, according to the Sikh community and elected officials.
On April 15, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) responded to 8951 Mirabel Rd. on a report of shots fired inside the FedEx Ground-Plainfield Operation Center.
IMPD officers located multiple victims, including eight with injuries consistent with a gunshot wound who were pronounced deceased at the scene. The suspect, Brandon Hole, was found dead in the business with injuries consistent with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Hole was in possession of two assault rifles.
During the incident, the suspect was witnessed using the assault rifles in the assault. The Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms conducted a trace on the two weapons and learned that Hole purchased the rifles legally in July and September of 2020.
IMPD continues to gather information based on evidence and witness statements from the scene.
An Indianapolis FedEx Facility Family Support Fund has been established online for the families of the victims, four of whom were members of the Sikh community. As of April 22, more than $157,000 had been raised toward the goal of $200,000.
Gurleen Gill, who organized the fundraiser, wrote: “Please note that all donations raised will be going to be split evenly as a general support fund for the families of the eight deceased victims as follows: Amarjit Kaur Johal (66), Jasvinder Kaur (50), Jaswinder Singh (68), Amarjit Sekhon (48), Mathew R. Alexander (32), Samaria Blackwell (19), Karlie Smith (19), John Weisart (74).
“We are currently in the process of speaking with the correct U.S. representatives, including attorneys, families, local members of the community, and nonprofit organizations to ensure the distribution of the funds will be consolidated correctly and effectively to each family.
“On the evening of April 15 shortly after 11 p.m., a gunman opened fire at an Indianapolis FedEx facility. In a few short minutes, the gunman took eight lives, including my aunt Amarjit Sekhon, and left several others injured.
“I write this message with a heavy heart as I sit with my family trying to wrap our heads around this tragic and heartbreaking event.
“My aunt Amarjit was an amazing mother, wife, sister, daughter, aunt, and loving friend. She will be greatly missed, but her memory will live on in our hearts forever. We love and miss you. Amarjit leaves behind two beautiful boys who will be looked after by their father, who struggles from partial paralysis. As my family comes together during this difficult time to support the boys and their father, we have created this page with the hope to raise funds and extend general financial support for the families of the deceased victims.
“Please keep all those affected and those fighting for their lives in your prayers.”
Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), an Indian American, issued the following statement on April 17: “As our country seeks to understand this week’s senseless mass shooting in Indianapolis, both in itself and as part of the larger blight of gun violence, it’s also imperative that authorities fully investigate whether this attack may have been driven by anti-Sikh motivations. While we’re still searching for answers, half of this tragedy’s eight victims were members of the Sikh community and the facility was known in the area to be heavily staffed by Sikh employees.
“This comes as our country has witnessed a recent wave of anti-Asian hate crimes during this pandemic after a broader increase in hate-motivated crimes and violence against a range of American communities over the last half decade. While the Indianapolis and Sikh communities continue to mourn, and as the rest of our country mourns with them, investigators must also determine if this mass shooting was a hate-motivated attack in addition to serving as another example of the plague of gun violence which has beset our nation.”
Last month, Krishnamoorthi introduced the bipartisan Hate Crimes Commission Act with Reps. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.), and Jeff Van Drew (R-N.J.) as co-leads. This bill, which currently has more than 140 co-sponsors and the backing of organizations including the Anti-Defamation League, would create a bipartisan commission to investigate and expand reporting on hate crimes throughout the nation. This commission would be composed of 12 members appointed by House and Senate leadership who would have one year to prepare a report on the rise in hate crimes, potential causes of increase, and how to combat it.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) tweeted, “Enough is enough. How many families have to lose a loved one and how many communities have to be terrorized by gun violence before the GOP stops blocking gun safety reforms? They won’t act so we must — eliminate the filibuster, pass these bills, save lives.”
In a joint statement, eight gurdwaras (places of assembly and worship for Sikhs) said, “We do not yet know the motive of the shooter, and we may never know for sure what drove him to do what he did. We do know, however, that the FedEx facility he targeted was known for having a large workforce.
“Given everything our community has experienced in the past — the pattern of violence, bigotry, and backlash we have faced — it is impossible not to feel that same pain and targeting in this moment. We expect that the authorities will continue their full investigation and share what they learn when they can, and they will take this into account.”
On Aug. 5, 2012, a mass shooting took place at the gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wis., where 40-year-old Wade Michael Page fatally shot six people and wounded four others. Page committed suicide after being wounded by police. A seventh victim died of his wounds in 2020. All of those killed were Sikhs, including Satwant Singh Kaleka, 65, the founder of the gurdwara.
In the aftermath of 9/11, many Sikh Americans were attacked, some fatally, because they were apparently mistaken for Arabs or Muslims.