INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A former employee who shot and killed eight people at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis never appeared before a judge for a hearing under Indiana's “red flag” law, even after his mother called police last year to say her son might commit “suicide by cop," a prosecutor said Monday.
Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears said authorities did not seek such a hearing because they did not have enough time under the law's restrictions to definitively demonstrate Brandon Scott Hole’s propensity for suicidal thoughts, something they would need to have done to convince a judge that Hole should not be allowed to possess a gun.
The “red flag” legislation, passed in Indiana in 2005 and also in effect in other states, allows police or courts to seize guns from people who show warning signs of violence. It is intended to prevent people from purchasing or possessing a firearm if they are found by a judge to present “an imminent risk” to themselves or others. Police seized a pump-action shotgun from Hole, then 18, in March 2020 after they received the call from his mother. But the law only gave them two weeks to make their case.
“This individual was taken and treated by medical professionals and he was cut loose,” and was not even prescribed any medication, Mears said. "The risk is, if we move forward with that (red flag) process and lose, we have to give that firearm back to that person. That’s not something we were willing to do.”
Indianapolis police have previously said that they never did return the shotgun to Hole. Authorities say he used two “assault-style” rifles to gun down eight people at the FedEx facility last Thursday before he killed himself.
“There are a number of loopholes in the practical application of this law. … It does not necessarily give everyone the tools they need to make the most well-informed decisions,” Mears said.
Mears said he had already spoken to legislators in the past about lengthening the two-week timeline and he reiterated that call on Monday.
Indiana lawmakers did not immediately comment on Mears' remarks.
Extending the deadline would give prosecutors more time to investigate a person’s background and mental health history before going in front of a judge, said Mears, who added that he would also like to see the statute prohibit a person under investigation from buying a gun until the hearing is held and the judge makes a final ruling.
Mears said the “red flag” law is “a good start, but it’s far from perfect.”
Indiana was one of the first states to enact the law, after an Indianapolis police officer was killed by a man whose weapons were returned to him despite his hospitalization months earlier for an emergency mental health evaluation.
Associated Press reporter Rick Callahan contributed to this report. Casey Smith is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.
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