INDIANAPOLIS — The authorities were searching for a motive on Friday after a gunman stormed a FedEx facility in Indianapolis late Thursday, fatally shooting eight people and injuring at least seven others in a fast-moving, chaotic scene that emerged as the latest mass shooting to rock the nation in a matter of weeks.
Officials said at a news conference Friday morning that they had not yet identified the victims, in part because the coroner’s office had not been able to go onto the scene. By early afternoon, bodies began to be removed from the facility.
The authorities said they were also working to confirm the gunman’s identity based on leads, but had not yet done so. Chief Randal Taylor of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department told reporters on Friday afternoon that the gunman was a younger male, likely in his 20s.
“I think we have a bead on who we think it might be,” the chief said, “but again, I hate to go down those paths when I haven’t confirmed it.”
The gunman, who was believed to have been armed with a rifle, killed himself almost immediately after the shooting, which erupted abruptly and without an immediate confrontation, the authorities said. “He just appeared to randomly start shooting,” Deputy Chief Craig McCartt said at the morning news conference.
The violence in Indianapolis comes only weeks after back-to-back mass shootings last month at spas in the Atlanta area and at a grocery store in Boulder, Colo., renewing pressure on Washington to address America’s deep-seated problems with gun violence and evoking both exhaustion and grief.
Officials used a common word — “another” — to define the tragedy. “This is another heartbreaking day, and I’m shaken by the mass shooting at the FedEx Ground facility in Indianapolis,” Gov. Eric Holcomb of Indiana said on Twitter. Mayor Joe Hogsett of Indianapolis condemned the “horrific news of yet another mass shooting, an act of violence that senselessly claimed the lives of eight of our neighbors.”
In a statement from the White House, where he ordered the flag lowered to half-staff, President Biden called the shooting “just the latest in a string of tragedies, following closely after gunmen firing bullets in broad daylight at spas in and around Atlanta, Ga., a grocery store in Boulder, Colo., a home in Rock Hill, S.C., and so many other shootings.”
“Gun violence is an epidemic in America,” Mr. Biden added, calling on Congress to approve gun control legislation. “We should not accept it. We must act.”
The authorities in Indianapolis had few updates on Friday morning and said they could not say what connection the gunman had to the facility, if any. The shooting was quick and abrupt, officials said. The F.B.I. special agent in charge of the Indianapolis Field Office, Paul Keenan, said it was too early to speculate on a motive.
After arriving at the warehouse, the gunman got out of his car and quickly started shooting in the parking lot, before entering the building and taking his life. “There was no confrontation with anyone who was there,” Chief McCartt said.
The FedEx sorting facility where the shooting occurred is on the city’s southwest side, near the airport.
Chief Taylor said he had been told that the FedEx facility was staffed by a large number of Sikh employees. The executive director of the Sikh Coalition, Satjeet Kaur, said in a news release that “Sikh community members are among those injured and killed by the gunman in Indianapolis last night.”
Even as authorities promised a meticulous investigation, Mayor Hogsett said no further information could “restore the lives that are taken, or the peace that was shattered.”
“Nothing we learn can heal the wounds of those who escaped with their lives, but who will now bear the scars and endure the memories of this horrific crime,” he told reporters. “What we are left with this morning is grief — grief for the families of those killed, grief for the employees who have lost their co-workers, and grief for the many Americans struggling to understand how tragedies like this continue to occur again and again.”
The atmosphere was fraught at a nearby hotel as families of workers at the facility waited for word about loved ones, many of whom were not allowed to have their cellphones at work, complicating the effort. The number of families waiting dwindled as the day went on, and the mayor visited with those remaining.
One woman, who arrived at the hotel early Friday morning, cried, “Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Lord!” when she found out her family member was safe.
The police said early Friday that five of the injured people had been hospitalized with gunshot or shrapnel wounds, including one in critical condition who was expected to survive. Two others were treated at the scene and released.
In an interview on NBC’s “Today” show on Friday, Levi Miller, who works at the FedEx facility, said he was eating on a bench outside with his co-workers when he heard several gunshots from inside. When he stood up from the bench, he saw a hooded man holding a rifle.
“He started shouting, and then he started firing at random directions,” Mr. Miller said. “I thought he saw me, and so I immediately ducked for cover.”
Mr. Miller said he could not understand what the gunman was yelling and that he could not see in detail the face of the suspect, but that he had heard from co-workers that the man was an employee. Officials have not released the gunman’s identity or confirmed if he worked at the facility.
“I saw a man, a hooded figured … the man did have an AR in his hand, and he starting shouting and then he started firing.”
Levi Miller, who works at the FedEx building where a gunman killed at least eight people before taking his own life, tells us about what he experienced. pic.twitter.com/67uLyasWAJ
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) April 16, 2021
A reporter with WRTV, an Indianapolis station, posted an interview on Twitter with a man who said he had been at the facility when the shooting broke out and later saw a body on the floor.
WISH, another local station, quoted an employee at the warehouse, Jeremiah Miller, as saying that he had heard up to 10 shots after finishing his shift.
“This made me stand up and actually look out the entrance door, and I saw a man with a submachine gun of some sort, an automatic rifle, and he was firing in the open,” Mr. Miller told the station.
Courtney Crown, a reporter with a Fox News affiliate in Indianapolis, posted another interview with a man who said his niece had been hospitalized after being shot in the left arm when the shooting broke out.
INDIANAPOLIS — Families of people who work at the FedEx facility in Indianapolis continued to gather at a Holiday Inn Express & Suites on Friday, waiting in anguished suspense for news about their loved ones.
More than 12 hours after a gunman opened fire at the facility late Thursday, killing eight people and injuring others, some families still had not heard from loved ones as the authorities continued to work to identify victims.
The mood was tense on Friday, as television crews crowded outside the hotel and flags nearby flew at half-staff. A team of chaplains, the American Red Cross and at least one therapy dog stood by. The Indianapolis mayor arrived for a private conversation with the families.
Still, officials said it could still be several hours until they release the names of those who had died. As of Friday morning, the coroner’s office had not been able to go to the shooting site, the authorities said.
As time went on, some families left, relieved, and the news for those remaining grew ominous.
But the situation was complicated because FedEx employees are not allowed to use their phones on the floor of the warehouse, family members said, and officials said surviving employees were rushed to the hotel after the shooting, leaving phones, purses and personal items behind.
Going on more than 12 hours without contact, families hoped — in some cases, prayed — that was why they had not heard from their loved ones.
One of the people at the hotel, Pardeep Sidhu of Plainfield, Ind., said his aunt and uncle worked at the facility and that a friend’s 45-year-old husband had been shot there.
Patricia Holman, the senior chaplain for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, was one of six chaplains who arrived at the hotel on Friday to provide counseling and comfort. She has been with the city for more than 30 years, first as a police officer, then as a chaplain.
“This isn’t the first time six of us have responded to an event,” she said. “But this is the first time six of us have been necessary.”
“It never gets easier,” she added.
She said they would try to give the affected families as much information as possible about what would happen next, including an autopsy, if they had to deliver the news that a loved one had been killed.
“It’s as difficult for us to tell it as it is for them to hear it,” she said. “This happens far too often.”
For family members agonizing over the fate of their loved ones who were working inside the FedEx facility where a shooting occurred late Thursday, the usual means of contacting them was cut off: Many did not have their cellphones.
Deputy Chief Craig McCartt of the Indianapolis Police Department told CNN that many employees could not contact their families after the fatal shooting, exacerbating the distress of relatives who were waiting for updates.
Jim Masilak, a FedEx spokesman, confirmed on Friday morning that cellphone access is limited within the facility, where packages are sorted for shipping, to minimize distractions. Such policies are common in the industry, where distractions could prove harmful to workers and disrupt the fast-paced, highly automated operations.
Christina Valor said she had learned about the shooting from news reports and had not been able to reach one of her husband’s sisters who worked at the facility. She was waiting for an update Friday morning at a nearby Holiday Inn Express, where the authorities told family members to gather.
“We’re hoping for the best,” Ms. Valor said. “But we don’t know anything.”
Tammy Campbell, who said her husband works at the FedEx facility, criticized the no-cellphone policy on the local Fox television station on Friday morning while waiting for word about him. She said she was told that he was fine but would not be able to talk to him until his shift was over.
“They need a different type of policy where you can contact your employee or allow them to have their cellphones,” she told the station.
Typically when a truck arrives at a facility like the one where the shooting occurred, FedEx employees unload the packages by hand. From there, the parcels enter a fast-paced and automated system where they are scanned, shuttled around by conveyor belt and sorted. They may then be loaded back onto vehicles to be shipped either to their final destination or another facility.
“Fast-moving machinery and belts zip those packages around like crazy,” said Dean Macuiba, a managing partner at Last Mile Experts, a shipping consulting firm. “You can’t be distracted for a second, you could get hurt.”
Mr. Masilak said on Friday that FedEx was cooperating with the authorities. “We are deeply shocked and saddened by the loss of our team members following the tragic shooting at our FedEx Ground facility in Indianapolis,” he said. “Our most heartfelt sympathies are with all those affected by this senseless act of violence.”
President Biden pledged to “do more” to address gun violence following the mass shooting in Indianapolis that left eight dead as his administration, scrambling to respond to a new cycle of violence, rejected calls to appoint a gun czar to more forcefully confront the crisis.
In a statement, Mr. Biden said he had been briefed on the episode “where a lone gunman murdered eight people and wounded several more in the dark of night,” and ordered flags lowered to half-staff just two weeks after he had given a similar directive following massacres in Atlanta and Boulder.
“Gun violence is an epidemic in America,” he said. “But we should not accept it. We must act. We can, and must, do more to act and to save lives. God bless the eight fellow Americans we lost in Indianapolis and their loved ones, and we pray for the wounded for their recovery.”
Earlier, his spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, rejected suggestions he appoint a gun czar, similar to the one he tapped on the climate crisis, arguing that the main impediment for addressing the crisis rests with congressional Republicans, not a lack of will in the West Wing.
“I would say that advocates should pressure Republicans in the Senate, that all of you should pressure Republicans in the Senate and ask them why they are opposing universal background checks,” she said after a reporter suggested Mr. Biden was “passing the buck” by blaming Republicans.
Despite the apparent gridlock, there are signs that things might be changing.
Mr. Biden is moving ahead with several narrow executive actions, and there are new negotiations on Capitol Hill for an expansion of background checks — aided by the financial collapse of the National Rifle Association,
Among the most consequential actions so far is a personnel move: Mr. Biden has tapped David Chipman, a former federal law enforcement official, to be the new head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, a battered agency tasked with enforcing existing federal gun laws and executive actions.
Over the years, N.R.A.-allied lawmakers have handcuffed the A.T.F. with the tightest restrictions imposed on any federal law enforcement agency, even banning the bureau from making gun tracing records searchable by computer.
The agency has been without a full-time director for much of the last 25 years because N.R.A.-allied senators have quashed nominations, by Republican and Democratic administrations, arguing that a strong agency leader threatens the Second Amendment.
Mr. Chipman is an unapologetic proponent of expanding background checks, again banning assault weapons and unshackling A.T.F. inspectors.
But White House officials are hopeful he can garner as many as 52 votes given the current disgust over the recent shootings. Senator Joe Manchin III, the most conservative Democrat on guns, has expressed tentative support, and two Republicans, Susan Collins of Maine and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, are open to the pick, according to Senate Republican aides with knowledge of their thinking.
Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, both of Connecticut, have been reaching out to Republicans in hopes of passing a narrower background check bill than the universal-checks measure passed by House Democrats earlier this year. Background checks are extremely popular in national polls.
The most powerful internal proponent of gun control is turning out to be Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, whose support for Mr. Chipman was a critical factor in his nomination, according to several people familiar with the situation who were not authorized to speak publicly.
Mr. Biden, adopting a tone of disgust and frustration, unveiled two relatively modest executive actions last week — a 60-day review of homemade, unregistered “ghost guns” likely to lead to a ban, and the elimination of arm braces used to turn pistols into short-barreled rifles, a proposal rejected by the Trump administration.
The attack in Indianapolis on Thursday came after a spate of mass shootings across the United States in recent weeks:
In mid-March, eight people were shot to death at three massage parlors in the Atlanta area, raising fears that the crimes may have targeted people of Asian descent.
Less than a week later, 10 people were killed when a gunman opened fire at a grocery store in Boulder, Colo.
At the end of March, a gunman killed four people, including a 9-year-old boy, at a real estate office in Southern California.
Last week, a neighbor shot and killed a doctor, the doctor’s wife and their two grandchildren inside their house in Rock Hill, S.C., as well as an air-conditioning technician who was working outside the home. A sixth person who was shot later died.
In an eerie reminder of the ongoing toll of mass shootings in the United States, Friday is the 14th anniversary of the massacre at Virginia Tech, when a gunman killed 33 people in what was then the deadliest shooting rampage in the nation’s history.
Indianapolis, like several other cities across the United States, saw an increase in criminal homicides in 2020, a year already racked with death caused by the pandemic.
There were 215 criminal homicides in the city, the most recorded in a single year, according to an analysis of Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department data by The Indianapolis Star. There were also another 30 noncriminal homicides, usually episodes where the authorities considered a killing justified, such as in self-defense.
The city’s previous record was 159 criminal homicide cases in 2018, according to The Associated Press. The police investigated 154 criminal homicides in 2019.
So far in 2021, Indianapolis has had three of the top 12 deadliest shootings in the country, including the one on Thursday at a FedEx warehouse, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit. One shooting in March resulted in four deaths and another shooting in January killed five.
Researchers say this kind of gun violence did not diminish nationally during the pandemic, but did fall from public view. Data from the Gun Violence Archive shows that in 2020 there were more than 600 shootings in which at least four people were shot by one person, compared with 417 in 2019.
In February, Mayor Joe Hogsett of Indianapolis pushed back against criticism, including from the president of the Indianapolis police union, of how elected leaders had handled crime. Mr. Hogsett told local news 13 WTHR that leaders had made progress was confronting violent crimes like robbery and rape.
“Now we need to focus on the gun violence like a laser,” he said.
Mr. Hogsett said he was seeing a change in how people were resolving their disputes.
“We’re seeing a rise in those types of social disputes which used to be resolved by somebody getting popped in the nose or some other nonlethal force,” he said. “We see, in too many instances, conflict resolution being meted out by the use of guns.”