Four members of the Sikh religious community, three women and one man, were killed in a Thursday night shooting at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis that claimed the lives of eight workers, a community group and local leader said on Friday.
"Out of eight, four are Sikh community members," said businessman Gurinder Singh Khalsa, who identified himself as a leader of the local Sikh community and said he had spoken with the families of those killed.
He said the FedEx operations center near the city's international airport was known for providing employment to older members of the Sikh community who did not necessarily speak fluent English. Thousands of Sikh-Americans live in Indiana, according to community members.
Indianapolis police have yet to confirm the identities of any of the victims of the mass shooting.
But law student Komal Chohan, in a Twitter exchange with Reuters, said that her grandmother Amarjeet Kaur Johal was among the victims and that several other relatives who worked at the facility were "traumatized."
Earlier, Chohan had written on Twitter that her grandmother "was gonna work a double so she could have the day off today but decided to just grab her check and go home. she still had her check in her hand when they found her."
Another worker who had just moved from India and only recently began working at the facility was also among the victims, she wrote: "what a hard and cruel world we live in."
Most of the world's roughly 25 million Sikhs live in the northern Indian state of Punjab, according to the New York-based Sikh Coalition advocacy group. An estimated 500,000 Sikhs live in the United States.
A Twitter user identified as Aurinder, who said they were Chohan's sibling, also posted about their grandmother.
"Every time I saw news articles of mass shootings it never really phased me. My Nani Ji (beloved grandmother) was murdered last night coming back home from work," Aurinder wrote.
The massacre is the most recent in a series of U.S. mass shootings that has again pushed the issue of gun violence to the political foreground.
Eight people were shot to death at three day spas in the Atlanta area in mid-March, raising fears that the gunman had targeted Asian Americans amid a rise in hate crimes. Days later, a gunman killed 10 people at a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado.
FBI Indianapolis Special Agent in Charge Paul Keenan said it would be premature to speculate on the motive of the gunman in Indianapolis, a 19-year-old former FedEx employee.
The Sikh Coalition said on Twitter that it expects "authorities will conduct a full investigation - including the possibility of bias as a factor."
Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States perpetrated by the Islamist militant group al Qaeda, Sikh men have sometimes been confused publicly with Muslims because they wear turbans and their hair and beards uncut.
"While many have a tendency to describe anti-Sikh hate violence as 'mistaken identity,' defaulting to this framework is problematic," an educational pamphlet on the Sikh Coalition's website reads. "It fails to account for the other alternate bias-related motivations behind the violence."
In 2012, a lone white, male gunman shot and killed six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin in what authorities said was a domestic terrorism incident. The attacker fatally shot himself after a gun battle with police.
Chohan said the Sikh community had been through "enough trauma."
"My nani, my family, and our families should not feel unsafe at work, at their place of worship, or anywhere," she said in a statement sent to Reuters.
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