INDIANAPOLIS — As parents, Earl and Annie Johnson said they talked about not even riding on planes together.
It was part of their plan to avoid opportunities for tragedy, like a plane crash, in fear of leaving their kids without both parents.
However, On April 15, the Johnsons would meet devastation and tragedy in their own workplace.
Annie was entering her third week at the FedEx Grounds facility on Maribel Road when shots rang out just after 11 p.m. Normally off by 10:30 p.m., she stayed later to see about her paycheck.
Her husband, Earl, a facility employee of four years, was on his way to work the 11:30 p.m. shift. He was about to park his car when he locked eyes with the shooter, 19-year-old Brandon Hole.
“He lit in and started shooting,” said Earl.
“The first bullet came through my windshield, and I felt it in my shoulder, and I said ‘Oh gosh! He shot me,” said Earl.
“I couldn’t really duck or anything to get out of the way,” he continued. “Next thing you know, here comes another shot. Just one after another one at the windshield.”
Earl managed to get out of his car and run to a nearby entrance for safety. That’s where co-workers helped him until first responders arrived.
Meanwhile, Annie was inside when she heard the shots. She was able to hide in an office until police got there.
“We hid in that office, which seemed liked forever,” she said. “I felt like I couldn’t breathe anymore because I didn’t know if I was going to see my husband again.”
Thanks to a phone in the office, Annie learned her husband was hurt, but she didn’t know how bad it was, or if he survived.
Once police arrived, Annie said employees had to stay at the scene for questioning. It wouldn’t be until hours later, around 3 a.m., that she’d see her husband in the hospital.
“Within that time, honestly, he could’ve died, and I wouldn’t have been able to see him,” said Annie. “To make me wait was unacceptable to me because I needed to be with him.”
Earl has since been released from the hospital and is now recovering at home. Annie, who was not hurt in the shooting, is taking care of him.
Though both are grateful to be alive, Annie says she still feels some guilt.
Due to FedEx’s cell phone policy, employees are not allowed to have cell phones on the floor.
While she understands the company policy, Annie says she can’t help but wonder “what if.”
“That within itself gave me a lot of guilt feeling,” she said. “That I couldn’t call him and say don’t come, stay away because there’s something going on here. I don’t ever want to experience that again.”
Since Thursday’s shooting, many are calling for FedEx to revisit its cell phone policy. When asked if they feel the policy should, or would change, the Johnsons say it seems unlikely.
We also reached out to FedEx, who replied with the following statement:
To support safety protocols and minimize potential distractions around package sortation equipment and dock operations, cell phone access within certain areas of FedEx Ground field operations is limited to authorized team members. Our cell phone policy is based on workplace safety considerations and we believe continues to be in the best interests of our team members while they are on duty.FedEx
As far as going back to work, Annie remains unsure. Earl, whose been employed with FedEx off and on since 2002, says he plans to return once he’s cleared by his doctor.
“We can’t live in fear,” said Earl. “Some things are going to happen, but we don’t put ourselves in fear, we don’t have to.”
“They’re making the workplace environment a whole lot better than what it was. So I think it will be more from a security standpoint, it will be up to par there, and they will have safety,” he said.
Today, the Johnsons are focusing on healing and moving on with their lives. They say part of that includes forgiveness for the shooter and his family.
“I forgive because there had to have been something, something that took this child to this point,” said Annie. “I don’t know what happened in his life. I don’t know him. I don’t know what happened in his life that brought him to where he was the night he stared my husband in the face and shot him. I have no idea, but with my beliefs, I have to forgive.”
“Our heart goes out to the families of the other victims that didn’t make it, as well as those that survived it, because you still have to show that compassion, regardless of the circumstances,” said Earl.
“…and even to that young man’s family,” Annie added.