Washington: The distraught families of Indian-Americans working at a FedEx facility in the US state of Indiana have expressed their anger, fear and anxiety in the aftermath of the latest mass shooting incident in the country that killed eight people, including four Sikhs.
Brandon Scott Hole, 19, a former employee at the facility in Indianapolis, carried out the mass shooting on late Thursday before allegedly committing suicide.
About 90 per cent of the workers at the FedEx delivery service facility are said to be Indian-Americans, mostly from the Sikh community.
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. Four others were Karli Smith (19), Samaria Blackwell (19), Matthew R. Alexander (32) and John Weisert (74).
“While we don’t yet know the motive of the shooter, he targeted a facility known to be heavily populated by Sikh employees, and the attack is traumatic for our community as we continue to face senseless violence,” Satjeet Kaur, the Sikh Coalition Executive Director, said in a statement.
This is the worst Sikh massacre in the US after the Oak Creek Gurdwara mass shooting in Wisconsin August 5, 2012, where seven members of the community were killed.
The attack marks at least the 45th mass shooting in the US since the Atlanta-area spa shootings on March 16, CNN reported.
It is the deadliest shooting since 10 people were killed March 22 at a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado.
“Enough is enough– our community has been through enough trauma,” Komal Chohan, granddaughter of one of the deceased- Amarjeet Johal- was quoted as saying by the New York Post.
“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,” Chohan said.
She said that several of her family members work at the particular facility and are traumatised.
“My nani, my family, and our families should not feel unsafe at work, at their place of worship, or anywhere,” Chohan said.
Jaswinder Singh, who lost his life in the shooting, was due to get his first paycheck at the facility this month and was working on the night shift to sort out the mail.
“He was a simple man. He used to pray and meditate a lot, and he did community service,” said Harjap Singh Dhillon, a relative of Singh, in a New York Times report.
Amarjit Sekhon, another deceased in the incident who began working at FedEx about six months ago, leaves behind two teenage sons who are yet to come to terms with their mother’s death.
Rimpi Girn, Sekhon’s niece, said she is struggling to explain her loss of her younger son.
“We can’t even think of what to tell him. All of a sudden last night his mom went to work, and she never came back today,” she was quoted as sahing in the report.
Jasvinder Kaur, who used to travel with Sekhon for her night shifts at FedEx, was to attend her granddaughter’s second birthday celebrations Saturday.
“And today we’re gathering to plan a funeral,” Girn, who is also Kaur’s relative, was quoted as saying by the NYT.
For Kamal Jawandha, it was a miracle that both of his parents, who worked at the facility and were present there at the time of shooting, escaped unhurt.
Jawandha said that his father had brought his mother food and was getting ready to go inside when the shooting started. His mother hid in the bathroom when the shooting started, the report said.
“She’s in deep sadness. She could not sleep. She just can’t stop shaking. She can’t believe this kind of thing would happen here,” Jawandha was quoted as saying by the NYT.
Maninder Walia, a community leader, expressed shock at the shooting incident, saying that it is very hard to understand that it can happen to the community.
“We go everywhere. We are all one family. Tragedy has occurred in a particular side of the town and we are all together. Anybody who has been hurt or anything, we mourn for all,” Walia said while speaking to the local WRTV channel.
Replying to a question on concerns whether the community is being targeted, he said, “it is too early to say anything and folks who are in the law and enforcement, they are gonna do their thing.”
“Our community has a long road of healing physically, mentally and spiritually to recover from this tragedy,” Walia told CNN.
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. Now there are 10 gurdwaras across the state and an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 Sikh Americans who have made Indiana their home.