FBI: We intervened with Indianapolis shooter last year -- but didn't hold him

Details remain sketchy about the mass shooting yesterday at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis, but we know now that the perpetrator had been on law-enforcement radar since last year. The family of Brandon Scott Hole called to warn police that he might plan to commit some sort of violent act in order to be killed, a potential case of “suicide by cop.” The FBI interviewed the 19-year-old but had no cause to detain him, although they confiscated a firearm at the time:

The former employee who shot and killed eight people at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis was interviewed by FBI agents last year, after his mother called police to say that her son might commit “suicide by cop,” the bureau said Friday. …

The shooter was identified as Brandon Scott Hole, 19, of Indianapolis, Deputy Police Chief Craig McCartt told a news conference. Investigators searched a home in Indianapolis associated with Hole and seized evidence, including desktop computers and other electronic media, McCartt said.

Hole began firing randomly at people in the parking lot of the FedEx facility late Thursday, killing four, before entering the building, fatally shooting four more people and then turning the gun on himself, McCartt said. He said he did not know if Hole owned the gun legally.

Thirteen months ago, his mother tried to get an intervention to keep her son from committing some kind of violent act. The Indy Star reports today that Hole got placed on a “temporary hold” for mental-health issues, but apparently local police couldn’t find any reason to detain him further. An FBI interview similarly went nowhere:

An IMPD report from March 3, 2020, references a mental health check for suicidal tendencies in the 1100 block of 1109 North Huber St., and lists Hole, then 18, as being arrested. It says police seized a shotgun “from dangerous person.”

“In March 2020, the suspect’s mother contacted law enforcement to report he might try to commit ‘suicide by cop,’” FBI Indianapolis Special Agent in Charge Paul Keenan said.

“The suspect was placed on an immediate detention mental health temporary hold by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. A shotgun was seized at his residence. Based on items observed in the suspect’s bedroom at that time, he was interviewed by the FBI in April 2020. No Racially Motivated Violent Extremism (RMVE) ideology was identified during the course of the assessment and no criminal violation was found. The shotgun was not returned to the suspect.”

It’s interesting that the shotgun never got returned. There must have been some reason to permanently confiscate it. What would that have been — perhaps it was illegally owned? If that’s the case, though, Hole should have been charged, and it would contradict the FBI’s claim that “no criminal violation was found.” This sequence and the confiscation don’t suggest that Hole was entirely cleared, however. That also raises the question of how he got the firearm he used in this shooting, and the answer will be critical to our understanding of the case. Was he still able to legally purchase firearms after those law-enforcement interventions?

Another question is more easily answered, but might still have multiple explanations: why did he attack this particular facility? Fox affiliate WXIN reports that Hole was fired from FedEx sometime over the past year. However, some in the local Sikh community wonder if they weren’t targeted specifically:

At least four out of the eight victims of the mass shooting at the FedEx facility in Indianapolis were members of the Sikh community.

The Sikh Coalition said in a statement published to Twitter that the four victims, killed Thursday, belonged to the Indianapolis Sikh community.

The lack of details may be infuriating, but the situation remains too unclear and fluid to reach any quick conclusions. Right now, it seems difficult to determine exactly what Hole had in mind. Was it revenge for losing his job? Bigotry? A desire to annihilate and then be annihilated? The only connecting thread to all of these points is mental health, as it usually turns out to be a major component in these kinds of mass murder.

We’ll update as developments warrant, but don’t forget that on some occasions, we never do get an answer to motive. Keep the victims, their families, and first responders and investigators in your prayers in the meantime.