The teenager who shot killed eight people at a FedEx warehouse in Indianapolis wrote about My Little Pony in a Facebook post less than an hour before going on a shooting rampage and taking his own life.
“I hope that I can be with Applejack in the afterlife, my life has no meaning without her,” Brandon Scott Hole, 19, posted at 10:19pm, The Wall Street Journal reported. The shooting started around 11pm on Thursday.
Applejack is the main character in the children’s cartoon My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic first broadcast in 2010.
Mr Hole had two Facebook accounts dedicated to the show that were removed by the social media giant following the shooting after requests from law enforcement, according to an internal memo acquired by The Wall Street Journal.
While law enforcement hoped that Mr Hole’s online activity would help shed light on his motive for the attack, the Facebook memo said the gunman’s accounts were mostly focused on the cartoon show.
So-called ‘Bronies’, a mix of ‘Bro’ and ‘ponies’, is a subculture of adult men fixated on the programme and “has displayed elements of far-right and white nationalist extremism,” the memo stated. But it also said Mr Hole’s posts showed no signs that this was part of his motivation for the rampage.
While the fan group is mostly made up of those who genuinely like the show, it has also drawn out paedophiles and white supremacists who share hate messages via fan art.
Assistant media-studies professor at the University of Georgia, Anne Gilbert, told The Atlantic in 2020: “This is a fan community that has prided itself on a permissiveness and pushing boundaries and cloaking themselves in irony and the idea that they can make the mainstream uncomfortable. That has been a source of pride.”
As the show came on air, many members of the subculture had links to the military.
The first ‘BronyCon,’ a gathering for fans of the show, was held in 2011 with 100 attendees. The convention ballooned to as many as 10,000 fans, but organisers ended the forum after holding the last event in 2019, arguing that interest was waning.
Law enforcement has yet to announce a motive for the shooting, but the Sikh coalition has called for an investigation into whether bias could have been a factor.
Police have said that about 90 per cent of the employees at the Indianapolis FedEx facility are members of the Sikh religious community. Mr Hole was fired from the warehouse sometime last year.
He was able to buy two assault rifles, one in July and another in September of last year, despite having had his shotgun confiscated after his mother called authorities and expressed concern about his mental health. Mr Hole was for a short period placed under psychiatric detention after his mother reported to law enforcement that he was considering “suicide by cop”.
FBI agents found no crime had been committed when they interviewed him in April 2020. Paul Keenan, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Indianapolis field office, said that Mr Hole had no “racially motivated violent extremism ideology”.
Republican Senator Todd Young questioned whether the state’s red flag law had been enforced properly in the case of Mr Hole. The state has had the law on the books since 2005 and allows authorities to seize guns from people who are considered to possibly be a danger to others or themselves.
Mr Young said: “We know that we have a Hoosier family who cried out for help, knowing they had a child who required mental health treatment. We know we have members of our law enforcement community who, for a period of time, responded to that call for help. And we know that in the end, that wasn’t enough.”
The senator was speaking at a gathering at Gurdwara Sikh Satsang, a Sikh temple in the southeastern outskirts of Indianapolis.