INDIANAPOLIS - Indiana's governor told Sikh community members and others gathered at an Indianapolis stadium Saturday to remember the eight people killed in a shooting at a warehouse that he knew their anguish from the attack was far from over.
The three-hour event at Lucas Oil Stadium came two weeks after a former FedEx employee fatally shot the eight people, including four Sikhs, before killing himself. Authorities have not released a motive in the April 15 shooting.
Governor Eric Holcomb said the capital was "still reeling from the impact of that dark night."
"Never in my wildest imagination did I see this day or this cause of gathering as a reason for our unification," Holcomb said. "Why must any day be that dark? Why must tragedy strike and tear a community, tear humanity apart? This pain will for sure persist as we continue to live with the loss."
In a letter read during the ceremony, former Vice President Mike Pence, a former Indiana governor, emphasized the grief of the Sikh community, whose members "add to the tapestry of this country."
"Know that our hearts and our prayers are with you all," Pence's letter said. "We join fellow Hoosiers across the state of Indiana and Americans across the country in expressing our heartfelt condolences."
A monotheistic faith founded more than 500 years ago in India's Punjab region, Sikhism is the world's fifth-largest religion with about 25 million followers, including about 500,000 in the United States.
Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said his message to the Sikh community, to immigrants and "to anyone who feels threatened by this act simply because of who they are" is that they are "welcome in Indianapolis, and it is the responsibility of every one of our residents to make sure you know that to be true."
Hogsett also reiterated his previous calls for changes to gun policy, saying the shooting could have been prevented. He said the city, state and country are "far past due for transformative action."
Authorities have said that Brandon Scott Hole, 19, had two rifles that he was able to purchase legally, even after his mother called police last year to say her son might undertake "suicide by cop." Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears has faced sharp criticism for choosing not to pursue court hearings that could have prevented Hole from accessing the guns.
Private services for victims from the Sikh community are also expected to take place in the coming week. The proceedings will begin with cremation, followed by up to 20 days of reading of the 1,400-page Guru Granth Sahib scripture.
The victims' families were granted roughly two dozen fast-tracked visas so relatives overseas could travel for the funerals, said Amrith Kaur, legal director at the Sikh Coalition. They're arriving just days before the U.S. restricts travel from India — a response spurred by a rise in COVID-19 cases in the country.