Police scoured a FedEx facility in Indianapolis and interviewed scores of witnesses Friday in search of a motive for the latest mass shooting to rock the U.S., as family members of the eight victims spent agonizing hours waiting for word on their loved ones.
Indianapolis Deputy Police Chief Craig McCartt said the gunman started randomly shooting at people in the parking lot and then went into the building and continued firing. He said the gunman apparently died by suicide shortly before police entered the building.
“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."
Officials identified the gunman as 19-year-old Brandon Scott Hole, who was a former FedEx employee.
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The FBI said it questioned the gunman last year. Paul Keenan, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Indianapolis field office, said Friday that agents questioned the gunman after his mother called police to say that her son might die from “suicide by cop.”
Keenan said agents questioned the gunman based on items found in his bedroom. He did not elaborate on what those items were. No crime was identified and the FBI says it did not identify the gunman as espousing a racially motivated ideology.
McCartt said four people were killed outside the building and another four inside. Officials with the coroner's office said they had not been able to get to the scene to identify the victims because evidence is still being collected.
Several people were also wounded. Five of the injured were taken to the hospital, including one in critical condition.
McCartt told "TODAY" show co-anchor Hoda Kotb the security measures at the entrance of the FedEx facility "did what they were suppose to do" because the gunman didn't get very far inside the building.
Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett lamented that the city was "confronted with the horrific news of yet another mass shooting, an act of violence that senselessly claimed the lives of eight of our neighbors."
Hogsett called for the U.S. Senate to consider gun reform legislation passed in the House, noting he signed on to a letter from more than 150 mayors around the country asking lawmakers to pass the bills requiring background checks for firearms that are transferred between private individuals and closing the "Charleston loophole," which allows gun dealers to complete sales after three days if a buyer's background check has not been completed by the FBI.
Levi Miller, an employee at the facility, told NBC's "TODAY" show he was eating with friends outside the building when heard the first gunshots. He said he initially thought the sound was a car with engine problems, but when the gunfire became rapid he realized it was a shooting.
"I'm at a bench and so I stand up and I see a man, a hooded figure, I was unable to see his face in detail, however, the man did have an AR in his hand and he started firing in random directions," Miller said. "I thought he saw me, so I immediately ducked for cover."
Miller said the man was shouting in the parking lot, but he couldn't tell what the gunman was saying.
"When you're in that situation, your instincts kick in," he said. "When you're in that moment in life, a lot of things start moving inside you from your mind and it all happens in a second. All for you to keep living."
Police Chief Randal Taylor also noted that a “significant” number of employees at the facility are members of the Sikh community. Taylor spoke from a hotel where family members are awaiting word on their loved ones. He says he will stay with the families until they get more information.
Most employees fled the building without their cellphone, making contact with family members difficult. FedEx said in a statement that "to minimize potential distractions around package sortation equipment and dock operations, cellphone access within certain areas of FedEx Ground field operations is limited to authorized team members."
“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?” said Mindy Carson, holding back tears. Her daughter, Jessica, works in the facility and she had not heard from her.
The family of a woman who worked at FedEx told NBC affiliate WTHR that she was sitting in her car in the driver's seat when the gunfire erupted. She was shot in the arm and taken to the hospital.
“She's fine, she's in the hospital now,” Parminder Singh. He said his niece did not know the shooter.
Ashlee Floyd told the Indianapolis Star that her father has worked at the facility for two decades. She said he usually calls his wife around 11:25 p.m. but he didn’t call Thursday, so family tried to contact him but he didn’t respond.
“I don’t know if he’s OK. I don’t know if he’s injured. I don’t know if he’s gone. I’m just scared right now,” she said.
In a statement early Friday morning, FedEx said: “We are deeply shocked and saddened by the loss of our team members following the tragic shooting at our FedEx Ground facility in Indianapolis," it read. "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.”
Gov. Eric Holcomb ordered flags to be flown at half-staff until April 20, and he and others decried the shooting, with some noting how frequent such attacks are.
Rep. André Carson, a Democrat whose district includes much of the city, tweeted about the shooting early Friday morning.
“I am heartbroken by the mass shooting at the FedEx facility here in Indianapolis and praying for all affected by this tragedy."
The shooting was the latest in a string of mass shootings across the U.S. in recent months. Eight people were fatally shot at massage businesses across metro Atlanta, and ten died in gunfire at a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado last month.
This is the third mass shooting this year in Indianapolis. Five people, including a pregnant woman, were shot and killed 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.
Last week, President Joe Biden announced a series of executive actions aimed at tackling what he called a national "epidemic."
"Gun violence in this country is an epidemic and it is an international embarrassment," Biden said at the time.
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.
If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide please call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text TALK to 741741 or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.