(AP) — Police scoured a Fedex facility in Indianapolis and searched the suspected gunman’s home Friday, looking for a motive for the latest mass shooting to rock the U.S., as family members of the eight victims spent agonizing hours awaiting word on their loved ones.
Without identifying him by name, FedEx spokesperson Bonny Harrison told the AP that the suspected gunman was a former FedEx employee.
Indianapolis police said earlier that they had not yet discovered the gunman’s motive for opening fire with a rifle late Thursday night at a FedEx processing center near the Indianapolis airport. The shooter started randomly firing at people in the parking lot and then went into the building and continued shooting, said Deputy Police Chief Craig McCartt. He said the shooter apparently killed himself shortly before police entered the building.
McCartt 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.
Officials with the coroner’s office began the process of identifying victims Friday afternoon, a process they said would take several hours.
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 organization in the U.S., 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 agonizing 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.
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 U.S.
“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 witness said he was working inside the building 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.”
Gov. Eric Holcomb ordered flags to be flown at half-staff until April 20, and he and others decried the shooting.
Chris Bavender, a spokesperson for the FBI’s Indianapolis office, said the bureau is helping with the investigation.