INDIANAPOLIS – As new details emerge about the April 15 shooting at an Indianapolis FedEx Ground facility, the Sikh Coalition is calling for investigators to look into possible racial motivations on the part of the shooter.
The Sikh Coalition sent a letter to FBI Agent in Charge Paul Keenan, IMPD Police Chief Randal Taylor, Indiana’s entire congressional delegation, Gov. Eric Holcomb, Indiana’s entire state legislature and Mayor Joe Hogsett.
In a statement, the group said investigators should look more closely at Brandon Hole’s possible interest in hate and white supremacy groups. Four of the eight people killed in the FedEx mass shooting were members of the Sikh community.
From its statement via Sikh Coalition Legal Director Amrith Kaur:
“A complete and thorough investigation – including determining the motives behind this attack and any connection Mr. Hole has to hate and white supremacy groups – is essential to providing justice and building trust between the Sikh community and local and federal law enforcement. A full and transparent recitation of those facts is also necessary to maintaining that trust moving forward. The reality is, even if Mr. Hole was a disgruntled employee due to the fact Sikh that employees were getting more hours than him or for any other reason, it is essential to connect the dots of all of his activities leading up to this tragic attack to fully understand the role racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy may have played in his alleged anger toward his former employer.”
IMPD interviewed Hole in March 2020 after police were called to his home because his mother feared he was suicidal. Police confiscated a shotgun; an officer discovered white supremacist websites on Hole’s computer.
In IMPD’s incident report, officers noted that Hole, upon being handcuffed, told officers to “please just turn the power strip off on my computer,” adding, “I don’t want anyone to see what’s on it.”
Hole underwent an evaluation and was eventually released without being prescribed any medicine, according to IMPD and the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office.
IMPD forwarded the information to the FBI, which interviewed Hole in April 2020. The FBI said it didn’t find any “Racially Motivated Violent Extremism ideology” during its assessment.
“This information stands in confusing contrast to the statement released by FBI Indianapolis Special Agent in Charge Paul Keenan on Friday, April 16,” said Amrith Kaur. “Per Agent Keenan, ‘No Racially Motivated Violent Extremism ideology was identified during the course of the assessment’ in 2020. We now know that this statement does not accurately reflect all of the facts of this case, and are seeking full transparency by the investigating agencies. Additionally, to further this investigation, it is imperative that all witnesses to the shooting be interviewed by law enforcement immediately.”
Keenan issued this statement Tuesday afternoon:
The FBI continues to work with IMPD and other law enforcement partners to find a motive for this senseless act of violence, and will be meticulous and thorough in our investigation and devote as much time as needed to find answers for the victims’ families. We are not ruling out any motive at this time, including one based on hate/bias.
“If you are a Sikh or, in fact, any minority living in America, it’s impossible to look at the tragedy that unfolded in Indianapolis and not immediately consider the possibility that bias was a motivator, whether it be explicit anti-Sikh or implicit racism,” said Sikh Coalition Policy and Advocacy Manager, Nikki Singh.
“It’s important for Americans to understand that our lived community experience immediately called these issues to mind,” explained Singh.
Singh said she urges caution and for people not to jump to conclusions. She said the details of every investigation matter enormously, including this one.
“The fact that the shooter had reportedly been on white supremacist websites, is a critical piece of new and relevant information, which is why we are still underscoring the need for a full and transparent investigation,” said Singh.
“This doesn’t definitively prove anything, but it certainly reinforces our legitimate concerns. So that’s why as an organization we’re calling for a full and transparent investigation.”
CBS4 spoke with IMPD Assistant Chief of Police, Christopher Bailey on Tuesday after the letter was sent by the Sikh Coalition to various agencies, including IMPD.
“I can’t say how deeply sorry I am for the loss of life that our community has suffered as a result of the actions of this suspect,” said Bailey. “Our condolences go out to all those that are impacted by this.”
Bailey said from the beginning of the investigation into Thursday’s mass shooting, police have looked into possible motives and are continuing to look into whether this attack was racially motivated or not.
“I think that what we as a community need to first understand is that we may never know the reasons behind why this happened,” Bailey explained. “To our knowledge, there was no note left, there’s no any kind of manifesto that was left that expresses some sort of specific hate for any particular group in our community.”
Bailey said IMPD investigators seized electronic equipment belonging to the suspect, from his home, which investigators will now comb through meticulously.
“Our digital forensic units will dive through all that, but for those that have never taken information off of a computer, it’s vast, and it takes a long, long time to sort through,” explained Bailey.
“If in fact during our investigation we find something that links this particular attack to a certain ideology or a specific information that this is the reason why it occurred, we’ll absolutely share that with the community,” he shared.
Singh said their priority is to continue their conversations with state and federal elected officials and law enforcement to ensure transparency in the investigation and its findings.
“Looking into the shooters personal history is, you know, part of what’s considered a full and thorough investigation so organizationally that’s why we are making that ask, but also, you know on a larger scale, speaks to the hate and bias that exists within this country,” Singh said.
Bailey said the investigation into whether there were any motivators for the mass shooting will take some time.
“It’s not going to be something that happens overnight. It’s not going to be something that happens very quickly. If we want something done correctly we’re going to have to make sure that we comb through every little piece of digital evidence that exists,” he explained.
“Regardless of how the investigation itself plays out, the collective trauma and impact this has on the Sikh-American psyche is real,” she said. “It will be incredibly difficult for the many Sikhs here and others to go back to work in a place where their lives were almost taken.”
She said they are extending their condolences to all impacted by the tragedy and for those who are not a part of the Sikh community, she said their doors are always open for other community members to grieve and heal after this tragedy.
Bailey said IMPD has met with leaders from the Sikh community to talk about the process moving forward and with returning loved ones back to their families. He said he wants the community to know IMPD will be there for all community members impacted by the mass shooting.
“We want answers like they do, they deserve it – we deserve it as a community – but like I said at the beginning we’re gonna have to wrap our minds around it the fact that we may not ever know why he chose that night at that time to commit these acts,” he said.
Bailey also referred to the 2020 response at Hole’s house and said his officers did exactly what they are trained to do — observe everything around them and report the information.
“Anything that we saw on that computer – anything we could’ve done with that is anything they could visually see. We didn’t have the right to go through any of the computer files, we didn’t have the right to dig through anyone’s property, we were there for one specific purpose and that was at the invitation of the family,” he explained.
Bailey said, “our officers reported it to our criminal investigations or intelligence section, who works closely with the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, and then the FBI did their thing and came out and interviewed him at the time.”
As for the mass shooting investigation, Bailey said now that IMPD has the search warrants and the opportunity to do so, its investigators will go through everything they have extensively.
“Going through digital evidence takes sometimes a long, long time and our people are doing it,” he said. “If we can make an actual link to this crime and other things then we’ll be happy to report that.”
CBS4 also reached out to Mayor Joe Hogsett’s office after the letter was sent.
A spokesman for Mayor Hogsett issued this statement:
Our office has full confidence in IMPD to complete a thorough, comprehensive investigation into all possible motives behind Thursday night’s tragic incident.