Marion County prosecutor did not ‘red flag’ suspected FedEx shooter after gun incident last year

Keywords Crime / FedEx
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Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears (IBJ photo/John Russell)

Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears said his office did not file a “red flag” petition last year against the FedEx shooter in an earlier gun incident, saying the family had agreed to give up a shotgun at the time, and the man was not seen as high-risk.

“He was treated by mental health professionals,” Mears said at press conference Monday morning. “They didn’t commit him. They didn’t prescribe him any additional medication. He was cut loose.”

Mears laid out his rationale for not asking a judge to determine that the suspected shooter, Brandon Hole, was dangerous or mentally unstable and should be prohibited from buying any additional firearms, a process informally known as “red flagging” a high-risk person.

The “red flag” law, passed by the Indiana General Assembly in 2005, is designed to keep guns out of the hands of mentally unstable people.

The earlier gun incident, in which the Hole family agreed to give up a shotgun, occurred in March 2020. Police said Hole later bought two “assault rifles” legally in July and September that he used in the mass killing of eight FedEx employees on Thursday.

In the March 2020 incident, police seized a pump-action shotgun from Hole’s house after his mother raised concerns about his mental state. She told police her son might commit “suicide by cop,” police said last week.

It’s up the to local prosecutors to determine whether to ask a judge to declare a person dangerous or mentally unstable, and they have only 14 days to file a petition after police confiscate guns in a warrantless seizure.

Mears said the 14-day window is too short to allow prosecutors to delve into a person’s medical history, including treatment for mental health issues.

He declined to elaborate on Hole’s mental evaluation last year, but said Hole was released within “hours, not days or weeks,” without being prescribed any additional medication, after his mother called police in March 2020.

“In this particular case, the petition was not filed, because the family had agreed to forfeit the firearm,” Mears said. “And they were not going to pursue the return of that firearm. … And so we were able to take a firearm out of that residence.”

He said his office has filed eight “red flag” petitions so far this year. He did not have information immediately available on the outcome of those petitions.

IMPD Chief Randal Taylor acknowledged to IBJ on Saturday that Hole was not red-flagged, but Taylor said he didn’t know why.

Police can seize guns if they get a warrant based on probable cause or without a warrant with later court approval.

If a judge finds the person is dangerous, the judge is required to suspend the person’s license to carry a handgun and prohibit the person from owning or buying or receiving additional firearms. That is meant to raise a red flag in the person’s computer profile if he tries to buy another gun from a dealer.

“There’s a significant limitation to the law,” Mears said. “…There’s nothing prohibiting that individual to go out and purchase an additional firearm, or 20 firearms. They are free to do that until there is an actual documented finding, where the judge says, ‘I can find clear and convincing evidence that this person has a propensity for violence or mental instability.”

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11 thoughts on “Marion County prosecutor did not ‘red flag’ suspected FedEx shooter after gun incident last year

  1. Sad to hear this. Hindsight is always 20/20, but seems like even putting a moderate constraint on a person like or who exhibits mental instability would be the minimum. As in moderate constraint, at least limit the kind of gun they could purchase legally. Not even close to an expert in this area, but seems like a change in the law would/could be helpful.

  2. Red flag laws are tricky. Maybe the following workflow would be better?

    >Possible risk of violence due to mental health identified
    >Hospital does mandatory assessment to see whether the patient is fit to have guns
    >Based on hospital assessment, prosecutor can initiate red flag system
    >If guns not allowed, patient fails background checks before purchasing guns.

    1. I support gun rights, but agree there should be a better process here. If you thought it justified to take away a gun, then it certainly begs the question of why it would be okay for that person to turn around and buy another one the next day. To your process flow above maybe add some sort of temporary “red flag” that denies access to firearms while the process works itself out and a determination is made to either lift it or make it permanent (or semi-permanent since presumably someone might get the help they need and should later be able to appeal the decision).

  3. Looks like the “mental health professionals” Mears references have some explaining to do as to why “They didn’t commit him. They didn’t prescribe him any additional medication. He was cut loose.”

    As their “patient” is dead, I hope these docs don’t try to hide behind patient privacy concerns in order to avoid answering for their actions.

  4. Was Indiana’s red flag law followed?
    Doesn’t appear that it was at all ……

    WITHOUT A WARRANT (35-47-14-3)

    If weapons are seized during the normal course of law enforcement duties

    If person is believed to be dangerous (as defined above), submit a written statement to the
    court of jurisdiction describing basis for belief

    Court reviews statement and may order firearms retained or released

    Court holds a hearing within 14 days. (IC 35-47-14-5)

    Notification to individual from whom the firearm was seized and prosecutor

    Court determines by clear and convincing evidence if person is dangerous and firearms
    should be retained (IC 35-47-14-6)

    If retained, law enforcement agency keeps firearm until further order of the court.

    Court shall also order License to carry handgun suspended. (IC 35-47-14-6(b))
    Notify ISP Firearms to insure this is completed

  5. This process is flawed. The system had him identified. We ought to focus on fixing this rather than trying to outlaw guns. This individual pulled the trigger.

  6. Sorry, but It’s time that the mentally ill had fewer rights. Protection of the public is of greater concern. And it’s time that our lawmakers woke up.

    1. These crimes could be prevented if the families had the right to be partners in the care plan of the mentally ill and if the mental health facilities where fixed, rather than shut down. It’s important to keep in mind that the vast majority with SMI are not violent. This is yet another case where the laws prevent families from helping. This person more than likely had a antisocial personality disorder ~ not a psychotic disorder~ which maybe why he wasn’t committed. This makes no sense as these disorders have a great potential to be dangerous…

      Molly~ The mentally ill should have the right have proper health care and not be treated like criminals. These types of tragedies should never happen. Sadly~ I doubt nothing will change and this event will be forgotten as soon as the next one occurs and everyone will wonder why.

      Prayers to the victims and their families, and quite frankly, the family of the shooter is a victim of the failed system, as well. It’s all very tragic.