The SJ Sikh community mourns victims killed in gunfire in Indianapolis

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The SJ Sikh community mourns victims killed in gunfire in Indianapolis

The New York Times

Indianapolis Sikhs mourn FedEx shooting victims as questions about lingering motives

INDIANAPOLIS – For decades, Sikhs have been coming to central Indiana by the thousands for good jobs, a quiet life, and affordable homes. Some became doctors or police officers, but many others worked as truckers or in warehouses, working overnight and out of public to support their families. It was people like Jaswinder Singh, who was active in his temple and was happy about his new job. And Amarjeet Kaur Johal, a grandmother in her sixties who loved watching Indian soap operas. And Amarjit Sekhon, who had two teenage sons. And Jasvinder Kaur, who wanted to make her famous yogurt for a family birthday party this weekend. Late Thursday, Singh, Johal, Sekhon and Kaur were among eight people killed by a gunman who had previously been investigated by the FBI and whose motives the police have not yet described at a sprawling FedEx facility on the outskirts of the city. The shooter also killed Matthew Alexander, Samaria Blackwell, Karli Smith and John Weisert before killing himself at the FedEx facility where he used to work. Sign up for The Morning Newsletter from the New York Times. The deaths and gunshot wounds sustained by at least seven others while changing shifts on a chilly night have rocked a nation where mass murders are commonplace. At least four of the victims were members of the Sikh community, and the attack renewed fears among American Sikhs, who have been charged with turbans and assaulted in a place of worship over the years. “The shock wave hit the entire Sikh community,” said Kanwal Prakash Singh, who has watched the Sikh population in the Indianapolis area grow from a handful to thousands since arriving in the late 1960s. “Why would a 19-year-old,” he asked, “do this to these innocent people?” The shooter, identified by police as Brandon Scott Hole, was reported in 2020 by his mother to police who warned last year that he could attempt “police suicide,” officials said. At that time, the authorities confiscated a shotgun and detained him for mental health reasons. According to official sources, the hole was armed with a rifle during the attack on FedEx. His family released a statement on Saturday apologizing to the victims and saying, “We have tried to give him the help he needed.” The authorities did not say whether hate or bias was involved Attack could have played. Members of the Sikh community still remember the painful aftermath of September 11, 2001, when, in a wave of anti-Muslim sentiments, some Americans targeted Sikhs with mockery of “Go home” or “Osama bin Laden”. And Sikhs continue to mourn the murder of six people by a white supremacist in a Wisconsin temple in 2012. “We don’t know if this was a goal or a coincidence,” said Dr. Sukhwinder Singh, 29, a leader of his Gurdwara. or Sikh Temple, southeast of Indianapolis. “We’re all so deaf. It will take weeks to process. “With vigils scheduled in Indianapolis on Saturday, the mourning was not confined to the Sikh community. The flags on the Indiana Statehouse were half full. And in the parking lot of a Baptist church to the west of the city, activists whose families had been subjected to gun violence gathered to express their support. The oldest victim at 74, Weisert was once a mechanical engineer and enjoyed playing country, western and bluegrass music on his guitar, his son Mike said. He had thought about retiring. “He was bent over and his back arched,” said Mike Weisert. “The job was slowly killing him by inches. His career was coming to an end and some of us were worried. “Alexander, 32, had attended Butler University once. He loved watching St. Louis Cardinals baseball and had worked at FedEx for several years, according to a friend, Ryan Sheets. He recently bought a house in Avon, a suburb of Indianapolis, Sheets said. “Matt was someone who was the perfect friend,” said Sheets. “No jealous bone in his body; he was generous. “19-year-old Blackwell worked as a lifeguard and dreamed of becoming a police officer, her parents said.” Her face was tough on the pitch or soccer field, but that quickly turned into an out-of-competition smile, “said Blackwells Parents in a statement from family friend, “Samaria loved people, especially those of advanced age. She always found time to invest in the older generation, be it by listening or serving.” Fan of hip hop music, whose family said she graduated from high school last year. “She was the kind of girl who, when she saw someone who was having a bad day, would go out of her way to make them smile “said her brother Brandon Smith.” She has made many people happy. “In the Sikh temples in Indianapolis, the members gathered on Saturday to mourn, pray and over the Ponder the circumstances of the shooting. Many of them described the victims from their community as hard workers committed to their families and committed to their faith known for its tradition of service, including helping victims of natural disasters and organizing food campaigns during the coronavirus pandemic . Many Sikhs were among the 875 employees at FedEx’s 300,000-square-foot sorting facility near Indianapolis International Airport, where packages are moved into an automated system where they are digitally scanned, weighed and measured, conveyed on a conveyor belt and sorted . A job ad for package handlers at the facility promises up to $ 17 an hour. Jaswinder Singh, a new FedEx employee enjoying his first paycheck, was present daily at a temple in Greenwood just outside Indianapolis, cutting vegetables, mopping the floor and serving food for temple goers. Sometimes he would stop at the temple before going to work. “He was a simple man,” said Harjap Singh Dillon, whose sister was married to one of Jaswinder Singh’s sons. “He prayed and meditated a lot and did community service.” Jigna Shah, who met Sekhon through her temple, said her friend was a regular at Sikh services, preparing lentils and serving food to visitors. “She was a very sweet person,” said Shah. “She was like an aunt to our family.” Rimpi Girn said her aunt Sekhon moved from Ohio to Indiana to be closer to the family. Sekhon started working at FedEx on a night shift from 11pm to 11am about six months ago, Girn said and had two sons, ages 14 and 19. “We can’t even imagine what to tell him,” Girn said younger son. “His mother suddenly went to work last night and she never came back today.” Girn also knew Kaur, her sister-in-law’s mother. She said Kaur planned on making a yogurt recipe that she perfected for her granddaughter’s second birthday on Saturday and was hoping to get a driver’s license soon. “And today we’re meeting to plan a funeral,” said Girn. With few details being provided by law enforcement by Saturday afternoon, there was debate within the Sikh community as to whether bias motivated the shooting and how to publicly discuss the possibility. Some members of the community suggested that it might have been a tragic accident in a country flooded with gun violence, while others were skeptical of this conclusion. “These events did not take place in a vacuum,” said Taranjit Singh, 27, a history teacher at an Indianapolis school after he and others met in his temple to discuss what language would be included in a press release about the shooting should. “In no case can you talk about armed violence and white supremacy.” As the Sikh population in Indianapolis grew over the past few decades, up to 10 temples opened in the city and its suburbs. A Sikh Day parade became part of the city’s social calendar. New church members continued to come to Indiana, some directly from India, but many others from states on the east and west coasts. Johal, matriarch of her family of 25, followed this path to Indiana. Like many others in the ward, she moved to the United States decades ago to be closer to her children and families. This was part of a wider wave of Sikh migration to North America that began in earnest in the 1980s. She lived in California for a while before coming to Indianapolis. Johal, a FedEx employee for about four years, had been working half-shift Thursday and was planning to celebrate a relative’s birthday when she got home that evening. One grandson said she was waiting for her carpool in front of the building when she was shot. “We all told her she didn’t have to work,” said Komal Chohan, 25, a granddaughter. “She could stay home and live comfortably and spend time with her grandchildren. But she wanted something of her own, she wanted to work and she was great at her job. She built a community at FedEx. “This article originally appeared in the New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company