In a mass shooting at a FedEx facility in the US state of Indiana, at least eight people, including four Sikhs, were killed and five others were left injured, according to community leaders.
About 90 per cent of the workers at this delivery service facility are said to be Indian-Americans, mostly from the Sikh community.
The gunman, identified as 19-year-old Brandon Scott Hole of Indiana, allegedly died by suicide after the shooting on late Thursday night at the FedEx facility in Indianapolis, taking the toll to nine.
"This is very heart breaking. The Sikh community is devastated by this tragic incident," community leader Gurinder Singh Khalsa told PTI over the phone after meeting family members of the employees of the FedEx facility.
Late Friday night, the Marion County Coroner's Office and Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) released the names of the victims: Amarjeet Johal (66), Jasvinder Kaur (64), Amarjit Skhon (48) and Jaswinder Singh (68). The first three deceased are women.
The IMPD said the coroner's office will determine the causes of death after autopsies are completed. Another Sikh, Harpreet Singh Gill, 45 was hit by a bullet near the eye and is now in the hospital.
US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris expressed condolences over the tragic killings.
“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,” Biden said in a statement.
Visiting Japanese Prime Minister, Yoshihide Suga, at the start of his bilateral meeting at the White House expressed his condolences to the victims and his sympathies to the families.
“Innocent citizens must not be exposed to any such violence. Freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law are the universal values that link and are prevalent in the Indo-Pacific,” he said.
Biden issued a proclamation in honour of the deceased. He ordered that the national flag be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all federal buildings.
Khalsa said community members are in touch with officials. "Post 9/11, the Sikh community has suffered a lot. It is high time that strong measures be taken to bring an end to such mass shootings. Enough is enough," he said. Indiana has about 10,000 members of the Sikh community.
Community leaders, like Khalsa, are engaged in philanthropic and charitable activities.
“We have families in our country that are grieving the loss of their family members because of gun violence. There is no question that this violence must end. And we are thinking of the families that lost their loved ones,” Vice President Kamala Harris told reporters.
The shooter allegedly turned his weapon on himself before law enforcement arrived at the scene. FedEx has confirmed that he was a former employee at the Indianapolis facility. No further information was released.
This is the worst Sikh massacre in the US after the Oak Creek Gurdwara mass shooting in Wisconsin on August 5, 2012, where seven members of the community were killed.
“This should be a wake up call for the entire country, in particular the Sikhs and Asian Americans, against whom there has been a sudden spurt in hate crimes,” Khalsa said.
Not ruling out the possibility of a hate crime, Khalsa said community leaders are meeting on Saturday to discuss the tragic incident and the way forward.
“We request the president of the United States that he needs to come forward and be serious about hate crimes, especially against the Sikh community because they are very vulnerable due their appearance and look,” he said.
“The president should take it seriously -- gun controls, automatic semi-automatic guns -- they are very lethal,” he said.
“We are deeply saddened by this latest killing in Indianapolis. It is very troubling to hear random mass shootings taking place in America almost every week. This kind of senseless killing and gun violence needs to stop,” Rajwant Singh, chairman of the Sikh Council on Religion and Education, told PTI.
“I am heartbroken to confirm that my naniji (maternal grandmother), Amarjeet Kaur Johal, is among those killed in the senseless shooting at the FedEx facility in Indianapolis,” said Komal Chohan.
“We are still working to identify others who were injured and killed on Thursday night. I have several family members who work at the particular facility and are traumatized. My nani, my family, and our families should not feel unsafe at work, at their place of worship, or anywhere,” she said.
Although Sikhs began settling in Indiana more than 50 years ago, the first gurdwara was 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.
“I am deeply shocked and saddened by the loss of eight FedEx employees following the tragic shooting at FedEx Ground facility in Indianapolis. This FedEx facility was staffed by a large number of Asian Indian Sikh employees. I am saddened to know that at least four of those killed are members of the Indianapolis Sikh community,” said Democratic leader Ajay Jain Bhutoria.
Meanwhile, the AAPI Victory Alliance has demanded an immediate investigation into whether or not these shootings were racially biased.
(With PTI inputs.)