Washington: At least eight people, including four Sikhs, were killed and five others were left injured in a mass shooting at a FedEx facility in the US state of Indiana, according to community leaders.
The gunman, identified as 19-year-old Brandon Scott Hole of Indiana, died by suicide after the shooting on early Friday morning, taking the toll to nine.
About 90 per cent of the workers at this delivery service facility are said to be Indian-Americans, mostly from the local Sikh community.
“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.
Maninder Singh Walia, community activist, said the four Sikhs who have died are Amarjt Kaur Sekhon (female), 48, Jaswinder Kaur (female), Amarjit Kaur Johal (female) and Jaswinder Singh (male). The age of the last three deceased was not immediately available.
Harpreet Singh Gill (male), 45, has received an injury near his and is hospitalised. The Indianapolis Police is yet to release the names of those killed in the mass shooting.
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. The FedEx facility has a large number of Sikhs working in various shifts.
?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.
This is the worst Sikh massacre in the US after the Oak Creek Gurdwara mass shooting in Wisconsin on August 5, 2012, where six 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.
“America is the most powerful country in the history of mankind. But it is shameful that we cannot address this growing problem of shooting innocent people all over the US. It is insane,” Khalsa 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.
“The latest rise of violence and hate against Asian Americans is also unsettling for many minority communities. It is so sad to see so many innocent Sikhs become the victim of this violence. We are praying for the victims and their families,” he said.
He urged the Biden administration to offer every help to the victims in Indiana. “The Sikh community is ready to do it’s part to assist. We also support common sense gun laws to curb this epidemic in America,” Singh said.