Late in the evening of April 15, 2021, a gunman launched an attack on a FedEx ground facility in Indianapolis, IN. The facility was widely known for employing a high concentration of Punjabi and Sikh workers, and four members of the Indianapolis Sikh community were among those killed in the violence. We solemnly remember all eight of the lives lost: Matthew R. Alexander, Samaria Blackwell, Amarjeet Kaur Johal, Jaswinder Kaur, Jasvinder Singh, Amarjit Sekhon, Karli Smith, and John “Steve” Weisert. At least five others–including two members of the sangat–were seriously injured, and countless others will carry the horrific experience with them forever.
The Sikh Coalition moved immediately to provide support to the Indianapolis sangat in light of the tragedy. We facilitated an early phone call between White House officials and community leaders, while also starting a dialogue with elected officials and law enforcement to insist that every aspect of the investigation into the shooting at the FedEx ground facility explore the potential for bias as a motivator in the assault. We moved to provide direct legal assistance to survivors and the families of those killed, including issues around worker’s compensation and rights, tax law, and help with visas for grieving family members. We helped to position community members with mental health services and resources that they needed. And we fielded a flood of incoming requests from local, national, and international reporters eager to understand the Sikh perspective on the tragedy.
In the weeks following the tragedy, the Sikh Coalition continued to stay engaged. Along with other Sikh organizations, we assisted with planning and publicizing multiple local and national vigils, as well as a memorial event on May 1, 2021. We have continued to field legal requests and retained two survivors as clients for free legal assistance. And we remain engaged with the local sangat to provide direct support where needed and participate in commemorative activities. We marked the one year anniversary by sponsoring eight trees (planted in memory of the eight lives lost) at Arsenal Park in Indianapolis; for the second year anniversary, we lead an initiative to secure a commemorative resolution in the Indiana State Legsilature and joined local organization Umeed-Hope for an interfaith panel on April 22, 2023.
A Note on the Conclusion of the Investigation
In July 2021, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) concluded that the shooter’s violent actions were “an act of suicidal murder,” and that there was “no indication of racial bias.” This announcement was made despite the fact that the attack was planned on a place with a majority-Punjabi workforce, and the shooter had white nationalist content on his computer. We remain disappointed that the IMPD and FBI never explained how they ruled out bias as a possible motive in their investigation. We continue to push law enforcement to understand that bias can be one of many motivations–along with mental health issues or other factors–driving acts of mass violence, and to fully investigate all such possible motives when these acts of violence happen; to that end, on the one-year anniversary, we marshaled more than 60 organizations to join a statement of solidarity calling for the full and transparent investigation of the possibility of a bias motive whenever marginalized communities face violence.