When a gunman killed eight people and wounded several others at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis on Thursday night, the city was already experiencing a plague of rising homicides.
The killings mark the latest mass shooting in America — a troubling recurrence that has seen at least 45 such tragedies in the US since March 16, when eight people were killed at three Atlanta-area spas.
It was also Indianapolis’ third mass shooting in the first four months of the year.
CNN defines a mass shooting as a shooting incident that results in four or more casualties (dead or wounded), excluding the shooter or shooters.
Last month, four people, including a 7-year-old, were shot dead after an argument over a stimulus check, according to court documents. In January, five people and an unborn child were fatally shot in Indianapolis’ “largest mass casualty shooting in more than a decade,” Police Chief Randal Taylor said at the time. Arrests were made in both of the cases.
Now, the city is reeling from the FedEx shooting, which claimed more lives than those lost in the January shooting.
“I haven’t seen this capacity in terms of the numbers of mass fatality shootings in a short period of time,” said Alfarena McGinty, chief deputy coroner for Marion County, at a news conference Friday. “It is very disturbing for our entire community.”
Police think the suspect in the FedEx shooting, identified as former FedEx employee Brandon Hole, 19, killed himself as officers encountered him. The motive for the shooting was not immediately known.
“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,” Mayor Joe Hogsett said at the news conference.
Beyond these three mass shootings, Indianapolis has faced a rising number of homicides.
In 2020, 214 people died by criminal homicide in Indianapolis — a nearly 40% increase from the year prior and the city’s highest annual tally on record, according to the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.
As of Thursday, there have been 69 criminal homicides in Indianapolis, including the FedEx shooting, according to IMPD Lieutenant Shane Foley — a 50% increase compared to the same time period last year.
“I do think it (the FedEx shooting) is a reflection of the kind of behavior that we’re seeing in the streets that is leading to so many nonfatal shootings, stabbings and homicides that we’re now seeing at a record-breaking pace in Indianapolis,” said the Rev. Charles Harrison, a local pastor and activist against violence.
Indianapolis isn’t alone in its increasing number of homicides. In metropolitan areas throughout the country, homicides increased by nearly 33% from 2019 to 2020, according to data provided by the Major Cities Chiefs Association, a professional organization of police executives representing the largest cities in the US.
Some areas where mass shootings have occurred this year also saw an increase in homicides in 2020. In Atlanta, there were 157 homicides last year — a nearly 59% increase from the year prior, according to the MCCA data.
In Charlotte, North Carolina, there were 122 homicides in 2020 — an 18% increase from the year prior, according to the MCCA data.
Earlier this month, former NFL player Phillip Adams fatally shot six people at a home in Rock Hill, South Carolina — just across the border from Charlotte. Adams then killed himself, authorities said.
Hogsett said that he signed a letter last week, along with 150 mayors across the country, asking the US Senate to consider legislation that requires background checks when firearms are transferred between private citizens.
On the local level, he said: “We’ll make it clear to our governor and to legislative leadership where I stand on these issues.”
Civic leaders like Harrison are frustrated by the escalating violence.
Harrison said, “If we cannot address the day-to-day violence, then certainly we’re not going to be able to address the mass shootings, and I see them as being tied together.”