INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A 19-year-old gunman whose mother once warned authorities about his mental state was identified Friday as the man who fatally shot eight people late Thursday night at a FedEx facility before he killed himself inside the building.
The victims were identified Friday night as Matthew R. Alexander, 32; Samaria Blackwell, 19; Amarjeet Johal, 66; Jasvinder Kaur, 50; Jaswinder Singh, 68; Amarjit Sekhon, 48; Karli Smith, 19; and John Steve Weisert, 74.
Brandon Scott Hole of Indianapolis fired a rifle minutes after 11 p.m. Thursday in the parking lot and inside the FedEx facility on the southeast side near Indianapolis International Airport, IMPD Deputy Police Chief Craig McCartt said in a late-afternoon news conference Friday. He did not know the type of rifle used in the shooting or whether Hole legally owned the weapon.
Hole last worked for FedEx in 2020, McCartt said. He did not know if Hole had been fired from the shipping and delivery company. IMPD shared a photo of Hole from an earlier encounter with the police.
Investigators on Friday afternoon were searching a blue and brick, two-story ranch home on the east side associated with Hole. Neighbors told News 8’s Dan Klein that they began seeing flashing lights about 6 a.m. Friday, less than seven hours after the shooting.
“Oh, it’s awful. My brother works for UPS so it kind of hit a little close to home for me,” neighbor Shelly Hebble said. “This is a great neighborhood. I would have never expected anything like this from any of my neighbors. Even though we don’t communicate, things aren’t stolen out of your garage every night, your house isn’t broken into. So yeah, it’s very strange.”
At the home, located northeast of the I-465 overpass at East 10th Street, authorities seized evidence including desktop computers and other electronic media, officials told The Associated Press. The officials could not discuss the matter publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.
Hole had previous interactions with IMPD and the Indianapolis office of the FBI, both which are investigating the shooting.
A year ago, a gun was seized from Hole in an incident involving IMPD, McCartt said. An IMPD police report from March 3, 2020, says the gun was confiscated from Hole during a mental health check in the same block where investigators on Friday were searching the home associated with Hole.
The search for a motive and whether Hole targeted someone at the FedEx facility remained elusive for investigators.
McCartt said, “We’re still identifying victims, so we still don’t have that information. After everyone is identified, then we’ll certainly start working to see if there’s anything that ties them together, ties them to the suspect, anything like that.”
The FBI revealed Friday afternoon that Hole’s mother had contacted them in March 2020 and feared he would try to commit “suicide by cop,” a term describing a person who intends to provoke a lethal response from a public safety officer.
The FBI statement said that Hole “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.”
IMPD had also encountered Hole in 2013, McCartt said, but he had no details.
McCartt said in the late-afternoon news conference that IMPD was nearing the completion of its investigation at the crime scene, and hoped to have identifications of the victims later Friday once surviving family members are notified.
One of the people fatally shot was Amarjeet Kaur Johal, family told News 8’s Sierra Hignite.
About 100 people were in the FedEx facility when the shooting happened, and many were changing shifts and on dinner breaks, McCartt said Friday afternoon.
‘He just appeared to randomly start shooting’
IMPD was sent to reports of shots fired and an active shooter shortly before 11:10 p.m. Thursday at the FedEx facility, 8951 Mirabel Road. It’s in a commercial area with a few hotels and multiple warehouses just south of the I-70 interchange at AmeriPlex Parkway. The facility is south of Indianapolis International Airport, the company’s second-busiest hub with nearly 4,000 workers.
Longtime Indianapolis law-enforcement sources told News 8’s Richard Essex that Thursday night’s shooting was the deadliest single-shooter mass homicide in the city’s history.
Investigators say the shooter came to the facility, got out of his car and immediately started shooting randomly.
“There was no confrontation with anyone that was there,” McCartt said Friday morning. “There was no disturbance; there was no argument. He just appeared to randomly start shooting.”
The carnage took just a couple of minutes. “It did not last very long,” he said.
Police say four people were killed outside the facility and four more were killed inside the building. Five other people also were shot. Two other people also received what were described by police as minor injuries. Hole shot himself inside the facility. No police officers were hurt.
Genae Cook, an IMPD spokeswoman, said early Friday morning that many people who were injured drove themselves to area hospitals for treatment. IMPD has asked any one injured in the shooting to contact the police department.
Hearses arrived Friday afternoon at the FedEx facility as the coroner’s office was doing its work at the scene.
Police Chief Randal Taylor noted in a Friday midmorning news conference that a “significant” number of FedEx facility’s employees belong to the Sikh community.
The Sikh Coalition says that members of the community were among the wounded and killed. The coalition, which identifies itself as the largest Sikh civil rights organization in the United States, said in a statement that it expected authorities to “conduct a full investigation — including the possibility of bias as a factor.” The coalition’s executive director, Satjeet Kaur, noted in the statement that more than 8,000 Sikh Americans live in Indiana.
Gurinder Hohl, chief executive officer of the Immigrant Welcome Center in Indianapolis, is a Sikh immigrant. He noted in a statement that shootings in “the past few months have demonstrated that it’s the people of color, those who are poor, immigrants, and work in jobs that make them increasingly vulnerable to such tragic incidents.”
Neelay Bhatt, chair of the Welcome Center’s board, added in the statement, “My wife is a Sikh and I am struggling with how to explain this tragedy to our children.”
IMPD held a press conference in the early morning hours on Friday.
Witnesses recall what they saw
Jeremiah Miller had finished a shift at the FedEx facility and was preparing to work a second consecutive shift when he and a coworker, Timothy Boillat, heard gunfire, up to 10 shots.
“This made me stand up and actually look out the entrance door, and I saw a man with a submachine gun of some sort, an automatic rifle, and he was firing in the open,” Miller said about two hours after the shooting. “I immediately ducked down and got scared and my friend’s mother, she came in and told us to get inside the car.”
About an hour after the shooting, Miller and Boillat were telling other workers not to come to work for the next shift.
“I didn’t exactly see a person get shot but, after hearing the shooting, I did see a body on the floor behind a vehicle,” Boillat said early Friday morning. “Luckily, I was far enough away where he (the shooter) didn’t notice me or see me. So, thank God for that.”
Families agonized; FedEx workers can’t carry cellphones
The families’ agonizing waiting for word on their loved ones was exacerbated by the fact that most employees aren’t allowed to carry cellphones inside the FedEx building, making contact with them difficult.
“When you see notifications on your phone, but you’re not getting a text back from your kid and you’re not getting information and you still don’t know where they are … what are you supposed to do?” Mindy Carson said early Friday.
Later Friday morning, Carson said she had heard from her daughter Jessica, who works in the facility, and that she was OK.
FedEx said in a statement that cellphone access is limited to a small number of workers in the dock and package sorting areas to “support safety protocols and minimize potential distractions.”
Statements from families
“We are thankful for the outpouring of love and support for our family. We are also praying for the families of the other victims of this tragedy. As Samaria’s parents, we were blessed by the Lord to have such a fun-loving, caring daughter as the baby of our family. Being the baby, she looked up to her siblings Elijah, Levi, and Michaiah, who, along with her dog Jasper, will miss her immensely. Samaria was tenacious in everything she did, from playing basketball and soccer to being a lifeguard for Indy Parks. On the court or the soccer field, she had a tough game face, but that quickly turned to a smile outside of competition. Samaria loved people, especially those of advanced age. She always found time to invest in the older generation, whether it was by listening or serving. She spent many hours helping Memaw Sue, from mulching flower beds to setting up Christmas decorations. 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. Philippians 1:6 says, ‘I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion…’ For Samaria, that work is completed and she is sitting with Jesus today. On this side of heaven we grieve, but not as those who have no hope, for we recognize Samaria’s life has only just begun.”
Jeff and Tammi Blackwell, parents of Samaria Blackwell
Other facts to know
- After the shooting, IndyGo dispatched four buses to help take workers away from the facility.
- I-70 reopened shortly before 1 a.m. Friday after being closed for more than 90 minutes between I-465 and Ronald Reagan Parkway. However, Indiana State Police said AmeriPlex Parkway was closed south of I-70 for several more hours; also, the ramp from the interstate to AmeriPlex Parkway was closed for a longer time. Main thoroughfares in the area have reopened.
- Early Friday morning, people concerned about family members were told to go to the Holiday Inn Indianapolis Airport at 8555 Stansted Road, which is southeast of the FedEx facility. Hundreds of people were waiting in and around the Holiday Inn for information. A line had formed to a ballroom inside the hotel, where FedEx staffers were meeting with people to help them find workers. Chaplains, gathered by IMPD, also were comforting those waiting for news at the hotel. The American Red Cross was providing snacks and drinks.
- Cook said early Friday morning that FedEx workers should contact their supervisors or human resources about reporting to work Friday. She said the facility will be closed for some time.
- The White House has been in contact with the city of Indianapolis. President Joe Biden’s chief of staff, Ron Klain, a native of Indianapolis, has been in communication with Mayor Joe Hogsett this morning.
- The FedEx incident is the fourth mass shooting in Indianapolis this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. The others were March 15 in the 2300 block of North Harding Street, Feb. 13 in the 3800 block of North Sherman Drive, and Jan. 24 in the 3540 block of Adams Street.
- Biden orders flags to half-staff as country mourns another mass shooting: ‘We must act’
Mental health resources
- NAMI Helpline: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
- Be Well Indiana Crisis Helpline: 211
- Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741
The Associated Press and CNN contributed to this story.
Indianapolis, nation respond
President Biden released the following statement on the deadly shooting:
Vice President Harris and I have been briefed by our homeland security team on the mass shooting at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis, Indiana, where a lone gunman murdered eight people and wounded several more in the dark of night.
Today’s briefing is just the latest in a string of tragedies, following closely after gunmen firing bullets in broad day light at spas in and around Atlanta, Georgia, a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado, a home in Rock Hill, South Carolina, and so many other shootings.
While we await critical details about the shooting, its motivation, and other key information, once again, I have the solemn duty of ordering the flag lowered at half-staff at the White House, public buildings and grounds, and military posts and embassies, just two weeks after I gave the last such order.
It’s a mass shooting just a week after we met, in the Rose Garden, with families who lost children and dear friends as bullets pierced their bodies and souls in schools, a night club, in a car at a gas station, and a town meeting at a grocery store. And it came just the night before 14th anniversary of the shooting at Virginia Tech, in which a gunman murdered 32 people.
Last night and into the morning in Indianapolis, yet again families had to wait to hear word about the fate of their loved ones. What a cruel wait and fate that has become too normal and happens every day somewhere in our nation.
Gun violence is an epidemic in America. But we should not accept it. We must act.
Last week, I called on the Justice Department to better protect Americans from gun violence. I also urged Congress to hear the call of the American people – including the vast majority of gun owners – to enact commonsense gun violence prevention legislation, like universal background checks and a ban of weapons of war and high-capacity magazines.
Too many Americans are dying every single day from gun violence. It stains our character and pierces the very soul of our nation.
We can, and must, do more to act and to save lives.
God bless the eight fellow Americans we lost in Indianapolis and their loved ones, and we pray for the wounded for their recovery.
President Joe Biden
FedEx sent this statement in the hours following the shooting:
“We are deeply shocked and saddened by the loss of our team members following the tragic shooting at our FedEx Ground facility in Indianapolis. Our most heartfelt sympathies are with all those affected by this senseless act of violence. The safety of our team members is our top priority, and we are fully cooperating with investigating authorities.”
Heather Wilson, communications advisor with FedEx media relations
The CEO of FedEx later released this statement:
“It is with a heavy heart that I write to you regarding the tragedy that occurred at our FedEx Ground facility in Indianapolis last night. While it will take some time to fully understand what happened, we know we lost eight team members in this senseless act of violence.
First and foremost, I want to express my deepest sympathies to the families, friends, and co-workers of those team members. Our priority right now is in responding to the situation on the ground and helping our team members and law enforcement. We have a team onsite in Indianapolis to provide support, and we are making counselors available.
This is a devastating day, and words are hard to describe the emotions we all feel. Please keep the Indianapolis team and surrounding community in your thoughts and prayers as we continue to support and care for each other in the difficult days ahead.”
Frederick W. Smith, Chairman and CEO of FedEx Corporation
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki discussed the shooting at the beginning of her daily press conference.
“Indianapolis is a resilient community, last night was a devastating blow and its impact will be felt by our community for days and weeks to come,” Mayor Hogsett said in a press conference. “But in times of despair I know that our residents will rally together and help one another make it through. The eyes of the nation are on Indianapolis today in ways that we never have hoped for.”
“This morning for the third time since January our community woke up to news of a senseless time that will not leave our memory,” IMPD Chief Randal Taylor said. “My heart is broken over the lives that were lost.”
Gurinder Hohl, chief executive officer of the Immigrant Welcome Center in Indianapolis, shared this statement:
“The Immigrant Welcome Center stands in solidarity with the families of Sikh community members whose lives were cut short by the mindless shooting at the FedEx facility in Indianapolis last night.
“This shooting hits close to home for Gurinder Hohl, Immigrant Welcome Center’s Chief Executive Officer, a Sikh immigrant. In response to the shooting she said, “ As a nation, state, and city, we have to work together to address the root cause of gun violence. Especially, as shootings during the past few months have demonstrated that it’s the people of color, those who are poor, immigrants, and work in jobs that make them increasingly vulnerable to such tragic incidents.”
Gurinder Hohl, chief executive officer of the Immigrant Welcome Center in Indianapolis
Gurinder Singh Khalsa, chairman of the Sikhs Political Action Committee, released this statement:
“This situation is very unfortunate and extremely heartbreaking. The loss from this devastating event is unfathomable and irrecoverable. One of the most upsetting things about this tragedy is that it is not an isolated event. Situations like these are becoming a part of everyday life as an American. We are the most powerful nation on the face of the earth, and have been founded on liberty and justice for all people. The issue of mass shootings has affected people from all walks of life, regardless of someone’s age, race, or social status.
Whether these shootings are targeted — such as the mass shootings that took place in Atlanta against the Asian community — or random acts of hate, such as this horrible crime, they all have one similarity; they are becoming commonplace within our country that prides itself on tolerance and diversity.
Our local, state, and federal elected officials are failing our people. They are in the position to save our people from these heinous crimes. They are in the position to keep people like you and I from becoming names on a victim list. If elected officials were to have the will and the intention, they are the ones who are in a position to put measures in place in order to protect our people.
It is never too late to step up and choose country over party, or country over opinion. We need to think as one; regardless of nationality, race, creed, religion, or political beliefs. We the people need to begin to pressure our elected officials to begin to make the decisions that will keep you, I, our neighbors, our friends, and our families safe.
I give my deepest condolences to the families and friends of the victims of this fatal event. I pray that these will be the last condolences I will have to give, but realistically I know that is not the case. Without action from our elected officials on all levels of government, this is something that will continue to tear apart our nation. The only time to act is now.”
Gurinder Singh Khalsa, chairman of the Sikhs Political Action Committee
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb released this statement:
“This is another heartbreaking day and I’m shaken by the mass shooting at the FedEx Ground facility in Indianapolis. Indiana State Police are working with local responders and we will continue to offer any and all resources needed to assist during this tragedy. In times like this, words like justice and sorrow fall short in response for those senselessly taken. Our thoughts are with the families, friends, coworkers and all those affected by this terrible situation.
“Today, I will order that flags be lower to half-staff from now until sunset on Tuesday, April 20 in remembrance of those we’ve lost.”
Eric Holcomb, Governor of Indiana
Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett released this statement:
“This morning, Indianapolis residents are confronted with the horrific news of yet another mass shooting, an act of violence that senselessly claimed the lives of eight of our neighbors. As law enforcement works to learn more about this tragedy, our prayers are with the families of those whose lives were cut short.
Thank you to all of our city’s first responders for their tireless work overnight. Their quick response provided critical aid to those injured in the shooting and brought a measure of calm to an otherwise chaotic scene.”
Joe Hogsett, Mayor of Indianapolis
Indianapolis City-County Council President Vop Osili released this statement:
Last night we saw our law enforcement and emergency responders give their all to save lives and care for survivors following this brutal attack. Following their example, every member of this Council stands ready to do everything in our power to support survivors and loved ones of those impacted by this senseless tragedy.
In speaking with District 20 Councillor Josh Bain and our colleagues on the Council, I hear in their voices equal measures of heartbreak and resolve.
Our Council is eager to support the individuals and families impacted by this vicious assault and our heroic first responders. We know that our local, State, and federal partners are working hard to provide the necessary information we need in order to further assess the situation and help us to understand how we may work together to end this scourge of violence in our community.
Indianapolis City-County Council President Vop Osili