Four of the eight people killed during a mass shooting at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis were members of the Sikh community — and leaders on Saturday said that should not be treated as a coincidence.
“There are no coincidences. The Sikh community might be the largest workforce in this facility, but this attacker knew that going in, and I don't think you can separate that out from his targeting of this specific facility,” Amrith Kaur, legal director of the Sikh Coalition, told BuzzFeed News.
About 90% of the workers at the warehouse were part of the local Sikh community, police have said.
Police have not said what they believe is the motive for yet another mass shooting in America, though they did say the gunman, who was white, was a former employee at the facility and appeared to indiscriminately fire at people in the parking lot and indoors.
The massacre came nearly a month after another shooting that targeted Asian Americans in Atlanta.
The shared religious background of the victims in Indianapolis shouldn’t be overlooked or separated from the anti-Asian sentiment that has been seen across the US, Kaur said.
“Even if they never classify this as a hate crime, under the totality of the circumstances, I do not think you can separate that from whatever other factors may be at play,” Kaur, a former prosecutor who now works as part of the largest Sikh civil rights and advocacy organization in the nation, told BuzzFeed News.
Those killed in the attack were Amarjeet Kaur Johal, 66; Jasvinder Kaur, 50; Jaswinder Singh, 68; Amarjit Sekhon, 48; Karli Smith, 19; John Weisert, 74; Matthew R. Alexander, 32; and Samaria Blackwell, 19.
Amarjeet Kaur Johal, who was a mother and grandmother, still “had her paycheck in her hand” when her body was found, according to the Indianapolis Star.
Komal Chohan told the writer Joti Kaur Rekhi that her grandmother had fled India after the 1984 Sikh genocide.
“They fled being persecuted because of who they are. It’s why most of them left India. They wanted better lives for themselves. They come here and end up in similar situations. It’s just terrible,” Chohan told Rekhi.
Chohan also paid tribute to her grandmother on Instagram: “AMARJEET KAUR JOHAL you deserved so much better than this. Never forget her name and we will not stop until we receive justice.”
Jaswinder Singh is reported to have only recently started working at the FedEx facility where he was tragically killed. The 68-year-old was about to receive his first paycheck.
Jasvinder Kaur relocated to the United States from India three years ago. The 50-year-old would typically work late-night shifts with Amarjit Sekhon, a 48-year-old mother of two who was also killed Thursday, the New York Times reported.
“She was a workaholic; she always was working, working,” Kuldip Sekhon, Amarjit Sekhon's brother-in-law, told the Associated Press on Saturday. “She would never sit still ... the other day she had the [COVID-19] shot and she was really sick, but she still went to work.” She had only begun working there in November and had previously worked at a bakery.
Sekhon had relocated to Indianapolis from Ohio with her teenage sons, primarily to be closer to family.
The community is currently experiencing shock and fear, Amrith Kaur of the Sikh Coalition said, which is unsurprising, since many have to return to work at the very facility where their colleagues were killed.
“I think, for the Sikh community members in Indianapolis, like many others that experienced this type of terrible violence in their workplace, they really don't have a choice but to go back there,” Kaur said.
“In a couple of days, a couple of weeks, whenever the time may come, they will have to go back to the very place they narrowly escaped with their lives, and if they don't feel like anything is being done to protect them, then where does that leave them emotionally? Physically? they're going to be devastated — they are devastated,” he added.
Gurinder Singh Khalsa, chairman of the SikhsPAC, described the shooting as “unfathomable and irrecoverable.”