Members of the Sikh coalition work in the kitchen of the Sikh Satsang of Indianapolis in Indiana. AFP
At a vigil attended by more than 200 at an Indianapolis park on Saturday evening, Aasees Kaur, who represented the Sikh Coalition, spoke out alongside the city's mayor and other elected officials to demand action that would prevent such attacks from happening again.
"We must support one another, not just in grief, but in calling our policymakers and elected officials to make meaningful change,” Kaur said. "The time to act is not later, but now. We are far too many tragedies, too late, in doing so.”
The attack was another blow to the Asian American community a month after authorities said six people of Asian descent were killed by a gunman in the Atlanta area and amid ongoing attacks against Asian Americans during the coronavirus pandemic.
About 90% of the workers at the FedEx warehouse near the Indianapolis International Airport are members of the local Sikh community, police said on Friday.
Four of the eight victims of the mass shooting were also members of Indiana's Sikh community. AFP
Kiran Deol, who attended the vigil in support of family members affected by the shooting, said loopholes in the law that make it easier for individuals to buy guns "need to be closed now,” and emphasized that anyone who tries to buy a firearm should be required to have their background checked.
"The gun violence is unacceptable. Look at what's happened ... it needs to be stopped,” Deol said. "We need more reform. We need gun laws to be harder, stronger, so that responsible people are the ones that have guns. That's what we want to bring awareness to."
Satjeet Kaur, the Sikh Coalition’s executive director, said the entire community was traumatised by the "senseless” violence.
"While we don’t yet know the motive of the shooter, he targeted a facility known to be heavily populated by Sikh employees,” Kaur said.
There are between 8,000 and 10,000 Sikh Americans in Indiana, according to the coalition. Members of the religion, which began in India in the 15th century, began settling in Indiana more than 50 years ago.
One of the victims of Thursday night's shooting was Amarjit Sekhon, a 48-year-old Sikh mother of two sons who was the breadwinner of her family.
Kuldip Sekhon said his sister-in-law began working at the FedEx facility in November and was a dedicated worker whose husband was disabled.
Members of the Sikh coalition sit in the dining hall at the Sikh Satsang of Indianapolis, Indiana. Jon Cherry/AFP
"She was a workaholic, she always was working, working,” he said. "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.”
In addition to Sekhon, the Marion County Coroner’s office identified the dead as: Matthew R. Alexander, 32; Samaria Blackwell, 19; Amarjeet Johal, 66; Jasvinder Kaur, 50; Jaswinder Singh, 68; Karli Smith, 19; and John Weisert, 74.
Kuldip Sekhon said his family lost another relative in the shooting — Kaur, who was his son’s mother-in-law. He said both Kaur and Amarjit Sekhon both began working at the FedEx facility last year.
"We were planning to have a birthday party tonight, but now we're here instead. This... this is tough for us," Sukhpreet Rai, who is also related to Kaur and Sehkon, said Saturday. "They were both very charming.”
Komal Chohan, who said Amarjeet Johal was her grandmother, said in a statement issued by the Sikh Coalition that her family members, including several who work at the FedEx warehouse, are "traumatized” by the killings.
"My nani, my family, and our families should not feel unsafe at work, at their place of worship, or anywhere. Enough is enough - our community has been through enough trauma,” she said in the statement.
The coalition says about 500,000 Sikhs live in the US. Many practicing Sikhs are visually distinguishable by their articles of faith, which include the unshorn hair and turban.
The shooting in the town of Poway, north of San Diego, came exactly six months after a white supremacist killed 11 people at Pittsburgh's Tree of Life synagogue — the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in US history.
The shooter was also killed after an extended gun battle with responding officers, in a scene that "best could be described as a war zone," Virginia Beach police chief James Cervera told a news conference.
Police and the suspect exchanged fire, according to the Los Angeles Times. "The situation has been stabilized and there is no threat to the public," the Orange Police Department said in a post to their Facebook page.
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