Indianapolis, US
AP/Report for America

The former employee who shot and killed eight people at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis was interviewed by FBI agents last year, after his mother called police to say that her son might commit “suicide by cop", the bureau said Friday.

Coroners began the slow process of identifying the victims as family members spent hours agonizing over word of their loved ones. The slayings Thursday night marked the latest in a string of recent mass shootings to rock the US.

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A body is taken from the scene where multiple people were shot at a FedEx Ground facility in Indianapolis, on Friday, 16th April, 2021. A gunman killed several people and wounded others before taking his own life in a late-night attack at a FedEx facility near the Indianapolis airport, police said. PICTURE: AP Photo/Michael Conroy.

The shooter was identified as Brandon Scott Hole of Indianapolis, Deputy Police Chief Craig McCartt told a news conference. Investigators searched a home in Indianapolis associated with Hole and seized evidence, including desktop computers and other electronic media, McCartt said. The home is located in a neighbourhood of mid-century houses near Interstate 465. Several people who live there declined to speak to an AP reporter Friday. 

Paul Keenan, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Indianapolis field office, said Friday that agents questioned Hole last year after his mother called police to say that her son might commit “suicide by cop". He said the FBI was called after items were found in Hole’s bedroom but he did not elaborate on what they were. He said agents found no evidence of a crime and that they did not identify Hole as espousing a racially motivated ideology.

McCartt said Hole was a former employee of FedEx and last worked for the company in 2020. The deputy police chief said he did not know why Hole left the job or if he had ties to the workers in the facility. He said police have not yet uncovered a motive for Thursday’s shooting but added that law enforcement officers seized a gun from him last year. 

Hole started randomly firing at people in the parking lot and then went into the building and continued shooting late Thursday night, McCartt said. He said the shooter apparently killed himself shortly before police entered the building. He said he did not know if Hole owned the gun legally.

“There was no confrontation with anyone that was there,” he said. “There was no disturbance, there was no argument. He just appeared to randomly start shooting."

There were at least 100 people in the facility at the time of the shooting, McCartt said. Many were changing shifts or were on their dinner break, he said. Four people were killed outside the building and another four inside. Several people were also wounded, including five who were taken to the hospital. McCartt said the slayings took place in a matter of minutes. 

Police Chief Randal Taylor noted that a “significant” number of employees at the FedEx facility are members of the Sikh community, and the Sikh Coalition later issued a statement saying it was “deeply saddened to learn” that Sikh community members were among the wounded and killed.

The coalition, which identifies itself as the largest Sikh civil rights organisation in the US, said in the 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 that more than 8,000 Sikh Americans live in Indiana. 

The agonising wait by the workers' families 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, fighting back tears.

Carson later said she had heard from her daughter Jessica, who works in the facility, and that she was OK. She was going to meet her, but didn't say where.

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.” 

FedEx Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Frederick Smith called the shooting a “senseless act of violence.”

“This is a devastating day, and words are hard to describe the emotions we all feel,” he wrote in an email to employees. 

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A FedEx flight on final approach flies over the FexEx Ground facility, on Friday, 16th April, 2021, in Indianapolis, where multiple people were shot at a FedEx Ground facility near the Indianapolis airport. PICTURE: AP Photo/Michael Conroy.

The killings marked the latest in a string of recent mass shootings across the country and the third mass shooting this year in Indianapolis. Five people, including a pregnant woman, were shot and killed in the city in January, and a man was accused of killing three adults and a child before abducting his daughter during at argument at a home in March. In other states last month, eight people were fatally shot at massage businesses in the Atlanta area, and 10 died in gunfire at a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado.

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said the community must guard against resignation and “the assumption that this is simply how it must be and we might as well get used to it".

President Joe Biden said he had been briefed on the shooting and called gun violence “an epidemic” in the US.

“Too many Americans are dying every single day from gun violence. It stains our character and pierces the very soul of our nation,” he said in a statement. Later, he tweeted, “We can, and must, do more to reduce gun violence and save lives.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she was “horrified and heartbroken” by the shooting and called for congressional action on gun control.

“As we pray for the families of all affected, we must work urgently to enact commonsense gun violence prevention laws to save lives & prevent this suffering,” the Democratic leader said in a tweet.

A FedEx employee said he was working inside the building Thursday night when he heard several gunshots in rapid succession.

“I see a man come out with a rifle in his hand and he starts firing and he starts yelling stuff that I could not understand,” Levi Miller told WTHR-TV. “What I ended up doing was ducking down to make sure he did not see me because I thought he would see me and he would shoot me.”

A man told WTTV that his niece was sitting in the driver’s seat of her car when the gunfire erupted, and she was wounded.

“She got shot on her left arm,” said Parminder Singh. “She’s fine, she’s in the hospital now.”

Governor Eric Holcomb ordered flags to be flown at half-staff until April 20, and he and others decried the shooting.

- With Associated Press reporters MICHAEL BALSAMO and ERIC TUCKER in Washington.