UPDATE 11-Latest U.S. mass shooting claims eight victims at Indianapolis FedEx facility
(Adds background on shootings, statement from FedEx CEO)
By Maria Caspani
April 16 (Reuters) - A gunman killed at least eight employees at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis and wounded several other people before taking his own life, police said early on Friday, in the latest in a rash of mass shootings across the United States in recent weeks.
At least 30 individuals have been killed in U.S. mass shootings in the last month alone, reigniting a fiery debate over gun violence and the U.S. constitutional right to bear arms as the country struggles to emerge from a lingering coronavirus pandemic.
The rampage unfolded at a FedEx operations center near the Indianapolis International Airport after 11 p.m. local time on Thursday night.
A worker at the air freight facility told local television station WRTV that he was eating when he heard what sounded like "two loud metal clangs" followed by more shots.
"Somebody went behind their car to the trunk and then got another gun," he said, adding: "Then I saw one body on the floor."
Another FedEx employee, Levi Miller, told NBC's "Today Show" he saw a "hooded figure" holding what appeared to be an AR-style semi-automatic rifle who shouted and opened fire outside the facility.
"I thought he saw me, and so I immediately ducked for cover," he said.
Indianapolis police spokeswoman Genae Cook told local reporters the authorities had "arrived to an active shooter incident."
"Preliminary information is that the alleged shooter has taken his own life here at the scene," she said.
Five people were taken to hospitals with gunshot wounds, while "multiple" others walked into hospitals nearby, police said. Two more were treated at the facility itself by medical staff and released.
One of the people taken to a hospital was in critical condition, Cook said.
In a message to staff, FedEx Chief Executive Officer Frederick Smith said that the eight victims were all employees.
"First and foremost, I want to express my deepest sympathies to the families, friends, and co-workers of those team members," said Smith, who added that the company is cooperating with investigators.
No further information about the victims, the suspect or the suspect's possible motive was immediately available.
A White House official said President Joe Biden will be briefed on the shooting on Friday morning.
The massacre adds to a spate of mass shootings in the United States.
In mid-March, eight people were shot to death at three day spas in the Atlanta area, raising fears that the gunman had targeted Asian Americans amid a rise in hate crimes. Days later, a gunman killed 10 people at a Colorado grocery store.
Indianapolis alone has seen two mass shootings this year, including a January incident in which police say a teenager shot and killed four family members and a pregnant woman.
Friday also marked the 14th anniversary of the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history at Virginia Tech, which saw 32 people killed.
Earlier in April, Biden announced limited measures to tackle gun violence that included a crackdown on self-assembled "ghost guns." He has also called on Congress to enact more stringent gun control measures, but such limits face fierce opposition from many Republicans.
The Indianapolis police department's deputy chief, Craig McCartt, told CNN that police did not fire any shots in the incident.
Television footage showed victims' families, friends and work colleagues, all with face masks on due to the pandemic and most holding their mobile phones, at a "family unification center" set up by authorities in a nearby hotel.
Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb said he would order flags lowered to half-staff until Tuesday.
"This is another heartbreaking day and I'm shaken by the mass shooting at the FedEx Ground facility in Indianapolis," Holcomb said in a statement. "In times like this, words like justice and sorrow fall short in response for those senselessly taken."
Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett wrote on Twitter early on Friday: "This morning, Indianapolis residents are confronted with the horrific news of yet another mass shooting, an act of violence that senselessly claimed the lives of eight of our neighbors." (Reporting by Maria Caspani in New York, Barbara Goldberg in Maplewood, New Jersey, Shubham Kalia, Nandakumar D, Akriti Sharma and Akshay Lodaya in Bengaluru, and Susan Heavey and Njuwa Maina in Washington; Additional reporting by Ismail Shakil; Writing by Joseph Ax; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)
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