Influential American lawmakers and Sikh community leaders have sought a thorough investigation into the mass shooting at a FedEx facility in the US state of Indiana as a potential hate crime that killed eight people, including four Sikhs. Indian-American Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi on Saturday called for investigation of potential anti-Sikh motivations in the incident that took place late Thursday night.
“While the Indianapolis and Sikh communities continue to mourn, and as the rest of our country mourns with them, investigators must also determine if this mass shooting was a hate-motivated attack in addition to serving as another example of the plague of gun violence which has beset our nation,” Krishnamoorthi said.
The four Sikh community members who lost their lives are Amarjeet Kaur Johal, aged 66; Jasvinder Kaur, aged 64; Amarjit Sekhon, aged 48; and Jaswinder Singh, aged 68. Three of the deceased are women. The violence began at 11 pm local time on Thursday during shift change at the FedEx warehouse in Indianapolis — a time when the area was heavily trafficked with many employees arriving for or leaving after their shift.
The tragic incident comes as the country has witnessed a recent wave of anti-Asian hate crimes during this pandemic after a broader increase in hate-motivated crimes and violence against a range of American communities over the last half decade, Krishnamoorthi said.
“We do not yet know the motive of the shooter, and we may never know for sure what drove him to do what he did. We do know, however, that the FedEx facility he targeted was known for having a large workforce,” said a joint statement issued by eight Gurdwaras of Indianapolis.
“Given everything our community has experienced in the past-the pattern of violence, bigotry, and backlash we have faced – it is impossible not to feel that same pain and targeting in this moment. We expect that the authorities will continue their full investigation and share what they learn when they can, and they will take this into account,” the joint statement said.
Eminent community leader Gurinder Singh Khalsa, President of the Indiana-based Sikhs Political Action Committee, announced to set up a task force to look into the circumstances and potential lapses that resulted in the horrific mass shooting at a FedEx location.
Given that a large number of Sikh members worked at this FedEx facility, the task force would also look into preventing hate crime at workplaces having sizable members of the ethnic and religious minorities, he said. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that the Senate will move forward with a gun safety legislation. “We must all stand together to stop the gun violence epidemic that has cost too many American lives,” he said.
“The shooting in Indiana is a stark reminder that unless we take action on gun violence soon, these incidents will keep occurring. My heart breaks for those affected by this violence. The Senate must find the courage to act,” Congressman Eric Swalwell said. “Learning the confirmation that four of those killed in the Indianapolis shooting were members of the Sikh community is heart wrenching,” tweeted Sabrina Singh, Deputy Press Secretary to US Vice President.
Though the motive is still unclear, understandably this type of event triggers fear and uncertainty — much like what the community faced after 9/11 and in the aftermath of the killing of six Sikhs at a gurdwara in Oak Creek in 2012, said non-profit South Asian Americans Living Together (SAALT). The organisation said that it stands in solidarity with the Sikh community, in Indianapolis and across the country, as they move towards healing.
“This is a shocking incident. Our prayers are with families of all the victims. We would like to advise families to be careful as many could be celebrating Baisakhi outdoors. We are in touch with federal agencies for the safety and security of people at these community events. We urge the administration to investigate all motives including hate and bias,” said Manvinder Singh, director of advocacy, UNITED SIKHS.
Ajay Shah, President of World Hindu Council of America said, “a random act of violence such as this brings immeasurable suffering to the families of victims. We stand ready to help them in this hour of need. Such acts remind us that as a society, we must address mental health issues more holistically.”
On Saturday, Sikh Coalition facilitated a call between the White House office of Public Engagement and other federal officials and Indiana sangat leaders, where they made several demands from President Joe Biden and his administration. “We have reached out to local and federal law enforcement to clearly communicate our expectation that they will conduct a full investigation– including the possibility of bias as a factor,” Sikh Coalition said.
“My heart breaks for all the victims of this tragedy. I also want to send particular love and support to my sisters and brothers in the Sikh community who have borne targeted harassment, racism and violence in the last several years. I stand with them today and always,” said eminent Indian American Neera Tanden. Former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro said there must be a full investigation to determine the extent to which this attack was targeted and inspired by hate.
Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett joined US Congressman Andre Carson, other officials, family and friends of the deceased in a candlelight vigil in Indianapolis on Saturday, the IndyStar reported.