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FedEx shooter visited ‘white supremacist’ sites and surrendered a shotgun, but didn’t trigger red-flag law

A sheriff's car blocks the entrance to the FedEx facility in Indianapolis on April 17, where eight people were killed during a shooting on April 15. (Michael Conroy/AP)

More than a year before he shot and killed eight employees at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis, Brandon Hole’s family asked authorities to intervene when the then-18-year-old threatened suicide by pointing an unloaded shotgun at police officers.

When Indianapolis police searched Hole’s bedroom on March 3, 2020, they confiscated the newly purchased gun. Then, they noticed “white supremacist websites” on his computer, according to a police report released Monday. Hole was involuntarily committed to have his mental health assessed.

Yet after the incident, prosecutors did not try to use Indiana’s red-flag law, which could have prevented Hole from obtaining the two guns he used in his mass shooting last week, Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears said at a news conference Monday.

Mears blamed the state’s strict law, saying prosecutors didn’t have enough time in a 14-day window to build a strong case that Hole should be prohibited from buying more weapons after he voluntarily gave up his shotgun.

“In this particular case, the petition was not filed, because the family had agreed to forfeit the firearm,” Mears said. “And they were not going to pursue the return of that firearm.”

The newly revealed details about the incident last year raise questions about the efficacy of Indiana’s red-flag laws and reveal fresh concerns about Hole’s motivations in carrying out a deadly attack that included four Sikh victims.

Indiana implemented its red-flag law in 2005 with a near-unanimous vote after a man was able to force police to return confiscated weapons even after he was hospitalized and deemed a threat by law enforcement officers. He went on to kill his mother, a police officer and himself in Indianapolis.

The law allows police to seize and retain firearms from “mentally unstable or dangerous individuals,” and gives prosecutors 14 days to build a case and convince a judge that a person is unfit to possess firearms.

That two-week window was not long enough in Hole’s case, Mears said on Monday.

“We want to be able to say that we made a decision based on having an opportunity to talk to health-care professionals, review medical records, look at someone’s mental health history,” Mears said on Monday. “Those are the things that should be important to these determinations, and the time frame in the statute just doesn’t allow for that.”

Mears added that his office has pursued eight petitions under the red-flag statute this year. Indianapolis police confiscated 191 guns in 2020 under the law.

Because prosecutors did not pursue a petition under Indiana’s red-flag statute, Hole was not barred from future gun purchases. He went on to buy two rifles last year.

Last week, he opened fire on a FedEx facility in Indianapolis, killing eight workers including four who belonged to the tightknit Sikh community, like most of the employees at the FedEx warehouse.

The deadly attack raised fears among people who identify as Sikh, who are tied together by a common faith and roots in the Punjabi region of India. Members of the community have faced harassment for wearing turbans and other traditional clothing and speaking Punjabi. The community has also endured racially motivated gun violence in the past. In 2012, a white supremacist entered a Sikh temple in Wisconsin and fatally shot six people.

After the FedEx shooting, Sikhs in Indianapolis feel targeted — again

When officers searched his bedroom last year after his mother called about his threat of suicide, Hole urged the officers to shut down his computer and ignore his online activity.

“Please just turn the power strip off on my computer,” he said to the officers who showed up at his house in March 2020, according to a police report released Monday. “I don’t want anyone to see what’s on it.”

An officer who reviewed the computer “observed what through his training and experience indicated was white supremacist websites,” the report said.

The Wall Street Journal also reported that Hole had posted on Facebook about the children’s show “My Little Pony,” suggesting that he may have belonged to a subculture of men who identify as “Bronies” or adult male fans of the show. Many “Bronies” put on conventions, collect pony figurines, and celebrate the show in online message boards, but some pockets of the online community are rife with violent images and white supremacist rhetoric.

Police have not yet determined a motive in last week’s fatal shooting at the FedEx warehouse, where Hole was a former employee, nor have they released any specific information about whether Hole had ties to any white supremacist ideologies or groups. Mears on Monday said police had found “concerning material” in Hole’s online activity, but did not offer specific details.

The FBI followed up with Hole in April 2020, but federal investigators found no evidence of racially motivated violent extremism or criminal activity, FBI Indianapolis Special Agent in Charge Paul Keenan said in a statement to CNN.

Officials have confirmed that Hole legally purchased the two firearms he used in the attack. He bought the rifles last July and September, fewer than six months after he was detained by police and had the shotgun removed from his home.