As Ryenne Beaty, 19, lit the first of eight candles during a vigil April 17 for those murdered at an Indianapolis FedEx facility two days earlier, Samaria Blackwell, was on her mind.
Blackwell, 19, was one of eight people murdered after Brandon Hole, 19, opened fire in the warehouse facility. For a decade, Beaty and Blackwell were best friends, homeschooled together and virtually inseparable.
“She was really selfless,” Beaty said of Blackwell. “I let myself believe that she would walk out of there. I thought she would come out laughing, like ‘You really thought I would let something happen to me.”
Beaty waited 16 hours before finding out her best friend was dead.
At the vigil at Krannert Park — the second ceremony held April 17 — city and state leaders gathered with the community and members of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) to offer their condolences and a message of hope.
Mayor Joe Hogsett said he’d traveled throughout the city meeting with families of victims and other community members since the shooting.
“I have to be honest, I’ve been asking myself the same question since Thursday,” Hogsett said. “Oh, loving God, what more can we take? I think we’ve all been asking ourselves this question — out of desperation, out of sadness, out of despair. … But we are not defeated. We will go on, and we will endure.”
Rep. André Carson also addressed the crowd, acknowledging the “particular tragedy” the city’s Sikh community endured because of the shooting. Four of the eight victims were Sikh. While no motive is currently known, members of national and local Sikh organizations are demanding authorities investigate the possibility of racial bias in the shooting.
Aasees Kaur spoke on behalf of two families and the Sikh Coalition and said it was well known that many members of the Sikh community worked at the FedEx facility that was targeted.
“We don’t know the motive yet,” Kaur told the Recorder. “It’s not clear if [Hole] targeted Sikhs, but acts of hate and acts of violence deserve urgent action. We expect and demand that authorities complete a thorough investigation, and that investigation may find that this was targeted.”
Many leaders also brought up the matter of gun control legislation throughout the vigil.
“We lost eight neighbors,” Carson said. “To not take action is an insult to Hoosiers. We can do it, we must do it. Let this tragedy be a catalyst of change to create safer communities for all Americans.”
City-county council President Vop Osili mirrored that sentiment. He said he came to a realization just a few hours before the vigil, as he was celebrating his mother’s 97th birthday.
“Living to be 100 should be the expectation of everyone here,” Osili told the crowd. “We need to start having adult conversations to ensure that we never have to stand here again.”
At a prayer vigil earlier in the day, hosted by advocacy group Purpose For My Pain, leader DeAndra Yates said the community needs to come together to not only prevent gun violence, but to support those who have lost a loved one.
Yates started Purpose For My Pain in 2015 after her 13-year-old son Deandre was shot.
“We are more than just a news story,” Yates told a crowd gathered at Olivet Baptist Church. “We are more than a social media post. We are families who are hurting.”
Ashlie Lucas, a former FedEx employee, said she would have been working at the time of the shooting had she not quit earlier in the year.
“I was actually working DoorDash and saw a bunch of police fly by me,” Lucas said of the night of the shooting. “I had people texting me asking if I was safe, and when I found out what happened, my heart just dropped.”
Lucas previously worked with two of the victims — Amarjett Johal, 66, and Jaswinder Sigh, 68 — who she described as “very friendly and kind.”
“I don’t know how you get over something like this,” Lucas said. “I don’t know if I will.”
Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.