The Sikh community was shaken by late Thursday night, April 15, by a mass shooting at the FedEx warehouse in Indianapolis that killed eight people including four Sikhs.
Following this tragic incident, the Sikh community held a meeting at its local Gurdwara house of worship to discuss how to support victims’ families and get answers to many as yet unanswered questions including concerning the safety of the Sikh community at the FedEx warehouse where the majority of the employees are of Sikh origin.
Among the eight people killed were Amarjeet Kaur Johal, 66, Jaswinder Kaur, 64, Jaswinder Singh, 68, and Amarjit Sekhon, 48. According to police, and the alleged killer Brandon Scott Hole, 19, a former FedEx employee who had worked there last year.
Sekhon and her cousin, Jaswinder Kaur, were heading into the FedEx building from its parking lot where both were killed by the alleged suspect.
Jaswinder Singh, 68, was there to pick his first check.
“We have lost members of our family,” Kuldip Singh Sekhon told indica News, adding Amarjit Sekhon was his sister-in-law and Jaswinder Kaur was his sons’s mother-in-law.
“We are in shock and life is completely shattered,” he said sobbing. “We all came to this country with a dream, and none of us on earth would like to see such an incident happen to their family,” adding alleged suspect Hole must have had mental issues.
“This is loss of a lifetime,” Sekhon continued stating that both Sekhon and Kaur joined FedEx past November.
Gurdhir Kaur, who also works at the FedEx facility, told indica News “Working there feels like you are with your large family.”
Kaur, who has worked at the site for three years, said she usually works 10-hour shifts four days a week that start at 11:30 p.m. On the night of the shooting, she said she was in her car in the facility’s parking lot with her sister-in-law, who also works there, with the car lights off waiting for their 11:20 p.m. clock-in time when they heard what they thought was firecracker. To their shock and horror Kaur said they then saw the alleged suspect and realized he was shooting and killing people. They then rushed back home where they have been crying in shock over what they witnessed.
“We enjoyed our work, never felt insecure,” said Kaur adding, “Never, ever thought of such shooting at work. It’s shocking and even though we are not cousins of the people who died we knew them through work.”
Ganganpal, Singh, Kaur’s son, told indica News the security at the site, including an iron gate, preventing the suspect from entering the facility and more victims from being hurt or killed.
Instead, Singh said, the alleged suspect pointed his gun at people who were in parking lot either leaving after their shift or attempting to enter the building for the next shift.
According to these witnesses, the suspect entered the facility’s parking lot sometime between 11:07 p.m. and 11:15 p.m. during the shift change. They further estimate the entire shooting incident actually lasted for two and a half minutes.
Komal Chohan, who lost her maternal grandmother, Amarjeet Kaur, expressed what she and others have been going through ever since.
“I have several family members who work at this particular facility and are traumatized,” said Chohan. “My nani, my family, and our families should not feel unsafe at work, at their place of worship, or anywhere. Enough is enough. Our community has been through enough trauma.”
Gurinder Sikh Khalsa, the founder of SikhPac charitable organization which held a meeting at the Sikh Gurdwara, said the important thing now is meeting the needs of the immediate future.
“The main concern is how to do fundraising for them, “ said Khalsa stating most likely funerals would begin next Saturday and his organization is working with the four Sikh victims’ family members to get visas and other basic necessities during this tragic time.
When asked does he think it’s a hate crime Khalsa offered another unique perspective.
“This is a hate crime against humanity,” said Khalsa stating if someone is so traumatized that they are willing to take the life of a fellow human being, and then take their own life as well, that means they are not mentally stable.
“I call it to hate when somebody takes someone’s life,” Khalsa said stating it’s a hate crime against people and could be of any race.
Another big concern right now, Khalsa said, is the US government standing above political or religious affiliation and working on gun control, especially semi and automatic rifles which he said should not be available.
Singh, however, said he believes other matters involved in contributing to this incident need to be considered.
“We should take mental health seriously,” Singh said questioning why alleged gunman Hole slipped out of the FBI’s sight when they let him go over a year ago following a prior reported incident during which a gun had been removed from Hole’s possession which was not returned and not used in this shooting.
Singh also questions if FedEx had any prior information or complaints about Hole’s behavior while also expressing concerns regarding the security provided at this FedEx facility when over 80 percent of its employees are of Sikh origin.
“There was a security lapse and needs investigation,” Singh lamented.
No motive for the fatal shootings has yet to be determined according to the FBI and law enforcement officials.
“We don’t know and we don’t say it’s a hate against Sikhs but it could be hate against. immigrants or employees,” said Singh stating but it definitely hated that led to the killings.
KP Singh, a community leader and design architect by profession who has been living in Indianapolis for decades, said the Sikh community is grieving, in shock, and believes that some of the places are scared where people should feel safe including places of worship, workplaces, and school.
“So, it’s a double-triple shock because they weren’t in a bad place or neighborhood,” Singh said.
Singh continued on sharing news about a meeting between White House officials and the Sikh Coalition.
Singh further stated the Fed Ex facility is a very popular work place close to towns having a high concentration of the Sikh population with most living in Hendricks and Marion counties with coworkers even sharing rides to the site.
“We know it’s leaning on a person that is familiar to you, and feeling a sense of friendship, that here is a sense of camaraderie and a sense of comfort,” Singh said.
According to the Sikh Coalition, there are more than 500,000 Sikh Americans currently living in the United States. Sikhs have been an integral part of the American fabric for more than 125 years.
Although Sikhs began settling in Indiana more than 50 years ago, the first Gurdwara Sikh house of worship was first established in 1999. In the last two decades the Sikh population around Indianapolis has experienced significant growth. Today, there are 10 Gurdwaras across the state and an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 Sikh Americans who have made Indiana their home.