Several Sikhs killed in mass shooting in Indianapolis

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Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department press briefing April 16, 2021, on the mass shooting at Fedex facility on April 15, 2021 late night around 11 pm. Photo videograb IMPD Facebook

The mass killing at the Fedex building in Indianapolis, Indiana late night April 15, left 8 people dead and at least 7 wounded, several of them Indian-Americans of the Sikh faith.

Police said they were still trying to figure out the motive behind why 19 year-old Brandon Scott Hole went on the shooting spree. The killer allegedly committed suicide after the killings. But a leading community group representing the Sikh community nationwide, identified several of the victims as belonging to the Sikh faith, and by evening of April 16, the Coroner’s Office also released most of the names.

In an update on April 16th afternoon, the Sikh Coalition tweeted, “We are sad to confirm that at least four of those killed in Thursday night’s attacks are members of the Indianapolis Sikh community.”

Earlier, in the afternoon, while still trying to find out the victims’ names, the Sikh Coalition put out a statement from Sikh Coalition Executive Director Satjeet Kaur which the organization sent to News India Times. It read – “We are deeply saddened to learn that Sikh community members are among those injured and killed by the gunman in Indianapolis last night. Our hearts and prayers are with their families, and we are in touch with community leaders, government and law enforcement officials to learn more. While we don’t yet know the motive or identity of the shooter, we expect that authorities will continue to conduct a full investigation–including the possibility of bias as a factor.”

Another tweet in response from a Dr. Amy Kaleka, said, “I believe it’s 6 out of 8 are of Sikh faith and attended the same Gurudwara. #GunReformNow #GunControlNow #BanAssaultWeapons #SikhHeritageMonth.”

Amarjeet Kaur Johal, one of the victims in the April 16, 2021 mass killing at Fedex facility in Indianapolis, with her grandchildren. Photo: courtesy of family, via Sikh Coalition

“I am heartbroken to confirm that my naniji (maternal grandmother), Amarjeet Kaur Johal, is among those killed in the senseless shooting at the FedEx facility in Indianapolis,” said community member Komal Chohan in a statement released by Sikh Coalition. “We are still working to identify others who were injured and killed on Thursday night. I have several family members who work at the particular facility and are traumatized. My nani, my family, and our families should not feel unsafe at work, at their place of worship, or anywhere. Enough is enough–our community has been through enough trauma,” Chohan added.

The Sikh Coalition said it is not republishing the names of other victims at this time out of respect for the families and given the fact that the situation continues to develop, .

“I have sat with families from our community and so many others at the Holiday Inn Express as they wait to hear the fates of their loved ones,” said community member Maninder Singh Walia. “These kinds of violent attacks are a threat to all of us. Our community has a long road of healing–physically, mentally, and spiritually–to recover from this tragedy.”

Earlier this evening, April 16, 2021, the Marion County Coroner’s Office (MCCC) was able to positively identify the deceased victims of last night’s shooting and make proper notification to the next-of-kin.
The deceased victims were identified as, 32-year-old Matthew R Alexander, 19-year-old Samaria Blackwell, 66-year-old Amarjeet Johal, 64-year-old Jaswinder Kaur, 68-year-old Jaswinder Singh, 48-year-old Amarjit Sekhon, 19-year-old Karlie Smith, and 74-year-old John Weisert.
Autopsies are being conducted it indicated.The names of the other victims are not being released, the MCCC said.

The possibility of this being another white supremacist hate crime appears to underlie news reports trickling in since the early morning hours.

An early morning Associated Press report quoted a man outside the premises, Parminder Singh, a Sikh name, who said his niece had been shot/wounded on the arm while she was outside in the car, and was in hospital being treated.

According to a CNN report, four survivors were taken to hospital with gunshot wounds; another sought their own treatment elsewhere, and one was treated on the premises.

Hole, who worked at the Fedex facility until the Fall of 2020,  began shooting indiscriminately both inside and outside the facility and four out of the eight people killed were outside the facility when they were shot to death, according to CNN.

Later the New York Times, in its report, noted that “a large number of Sikhs” worked at the Fedex facility.

Police said Hole had been interrogated in April 2020, and his premises searched.

“Based on items observed in the suspect’s bedroom at that time, he was interviewed by the FBI in April 2020,” a statement from the police said. “No Racially Motivated Violent Extremism (RMVE) ideology was identified during the course of the assessment and no criminal violation was found. The shotgun was not returned to the suspect,” the statement quoted by CNN says.

According to press briefings by the Indianapolis Police Department available on the website, Hole had a rifle the make of which the police did not specify.

Meanwhile, relatives of the employees gathered at a hotel nearby to receive updates from the police. Many had not heard from their relatives when the events transpired because of Amazon’s policy of not allowing employees to carry their cellphones into the facility.

This tragic event evokes memories of past hate crimes involving mass killing of Sikhs that took place in 2012 at Wisconsin’s Oak Creek gurdwara where at least six members of the community were shot dead by White supremacist Wade Michael Page. In addition, the first person killed in the backlash to the 9/11, was a Sikh man in Arizona, Balbir Singh Sodhi.

According to the Sikh Coalition, although Sikhs began settling in Indiana more than 50 years ago, the first gurdwara was established in 1999. In the last two decades, the Sikh population around Indianapolis has experienced significant growth, the organization noted. It estimates that today, there are 10 gurdwaras across the state and an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 Sikhs have made Indiana their home.

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