FedEx gunman able to buy rifles after weapon confiscation as Sikh group demands hate crime investigation

Gustaf Kilander
·6 min read
Families, coworkers, and government officials raise their cell phone flashlights during a vigil on April 17, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Getty Images)
Families, coworkers, and government officials raise their cell phone flashlights during a vigil on April 17, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Getty Images)

The gunman who shot dead eight people at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis this week legally bought the two assault rifles he used in the killings despite having a shotgun confiscated months earlier, police have confirmed.

Former FedEx worker Brandon Scott Hole, 19, was able to buy an assault rife in July and another in September despite having a weapon confiscated by police in March 2020 after his mother raised concerns about his mental health.

His mother told police that the teenager might try to commit “suicide by cop”, leading to his weapon being removed and him being placed on a temporary mental health hold.

Indianapolis police confiscated the shotgun and took the teen into custody in March last year after suicidal threats, The Indianapolis Star reported.

FBI Indianapolis Special Agent in Charge Paul Keenan told The Star: “The suspect was placed on an immediate detention mental health temporary hold by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. A shotgun was seized at his residence. Based on items observed in the suspect’s bedroom at that time, he was interviewed by the FBI in April 2020. 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.”

While his first shotgun was not given back, the teenager was able to go out and buy other weapons. Authorities would not disclose where the suspect had bought the rifles due to the ongoing investigation.

Indianapolis metropolitan police chief Randal Taylor said on Saturday that Hole was able to “legally purchase a much more powerful weapon than a shotgun”.

He added that he believed a red flag law determination had not been made. Authorities in Indiana have two weeks after seizing a firearm to convince a judge that the person in question is unstable and shouldn’t be able to have a gun, The Guardian reported.

On Saturday evening, vigils were held across Indianapolis and in other parts of the US to remember the eight victims, four of whom belonged to the city’s Sikh community.

Gurinder Singh Khalsa, a local business leader, said that three women and a man from the Sikh community had been killed and at least one other person wounded.

Mr Singh Khalsa told Reuters that the FedEx centre was known for employing older members of the Sikh community, and individuals who may not speak English fluently. He added that the majority of the 100-strong FedEx workforce are Sikh.

The Sikh Coalition, a New York-based advocacy group, is demanding an investigation into whether the shooting was a hate crime.

Coalition Executive Director Satjeet Kaur said in a statement on Friday: “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,” The Indianapolis Star reported.

Brandon Scott Hole, the former FedEx employee who shot and killed eight people on 15 April in IndianapolisIndianapolis Metropolitan Police Department via AP
Brandon Scott Hole, the former FedEx employee who shot and killed eight people on 15 April in IndianapolisIndianapolis Metropolitan Police Department via AP

Around 11pm on Thursday, the gunman opened fire in the parking lot of the FedEx facility, shooting four people. He then entered the warehouse, killed four others and wounded seven. The teen then took his own life.

Kamal Jawandha, whose parents both work as sorters at the facility, said his mother hid in the bathroom during the attack and saw a friend lying dead when it was over.

“She’s in deep sadness. She just can’t stop shaking. She can’t believe this kind of thing would happen here," Mr Jawandha told The New York Times.

The victims range in age from 19 to 74 years old.

Amarjit Sekhon, a 48-year-old mother-of-two had started working at FedEx in November. Her brother-in-law, Kuldip Sekhon, told the Associated Press that she was always working.

“She would never sit still... the other day she had the shot and she was really sick, but she still went to work,” he said.

Mother-of-two Jasvinder Kaur, 50, moved to the US in 2018. She had been sending money home to her son in India, the Indianapolis Star reported.

Jaswinder Singh, 68, had only been working at FedEx for a few days and was believed to have been collecting his paycheck when the shooting occurred, his son Jatinder Singh told The Hindustan Times.

Samaria Blackwell, 19, had been working at the facility since February.

Her parents said in a statement: “As an intelligent, straight-A student, Samaria could have done anything she chose to put her mind to, and because she loved helping people, she dreamed of becoming a police officer. Although that dream has been cut short, we believe that right now she is rejoicing in heaven with her Savior.”

John Weisert, 74, had worked at FedEx for about four years. His son Mike Weisert wrote on Facebook: “He was a GOOD man. He was a great father. He was a wonderfully devoted and faithful husband of almost 50 years to my mom. And he was a man who worked very hard throughout his life to provide the best home he possibly could for his family.”

Karli Smith, 19, had been in touch with her family shortly at 11pm, shortly before she was killed.

A family member told theIndianapolis Star: “She was a lovely, beautiful and youthful teenage girl. She had just started to buckle down and get a job and take life a little more serious.”

Matthew Alexander, 32, was a former student of Butler University. The school tweeted: “The Butler community is mourning the loss of Matthew Alexander. We want to extend our deepest sympathies to Matthew’s friends and families during this time of great sorrow.”

Amarjeet Kaur Johal, 66, was a grandmother and a member of the Sikh community. Her grandson tweeted: “I am heartbroken to confirm that my nanjii (maternal grandmother), Amarjeet Kaur Johal, is among those killed in the senseless shooting at the FedEx facility in Indianapolis.”

He added: “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.”

Deputy Police Chief Craig McCartt of the Indianapolis police department said Mr Hole last worked for FedEx in 2020 and was unsure why he left the job or if he had any connections to those who worked at the facility, The Associated Press reported.

The gunman’s stepsister, who asked to remain anonymous, told WXIN that he was “isolated” and that their father had died by suicide in 2004.

“We do have a lot of mental illness in our family and he never got the help that he needed,” she said.

The gunman’s family released a statement on Saturday, apologizing to the victims and adding that they had tried to get him help.

“We are devastated at the loss of life caused as a result of Brandon’s actions; through the love of his family, we tried to get him the help he needed,” the family said in a statement to the Indianapolis Star.