Editorial: Prosecutor had duty to try to invoke ‘red flag’ law for FedEx shooter

Keywords Editorials / Opinion

Six months ago, we gave Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears the benefit of the doubt when we learned he hadn’t invoked a “red flag” law that could have prevented Brandon Scott Hole from purchasing the two rifles he used to open fire at a FedEx Ground facility and kill eight people.

New information uncovered last week by The Indianapolis Star has caused us to change our opinion.

In the Hole case, Mears and his staff had an opportunity a year before the horrific FedEx shooting in April to use the red flag law to ask a judge to impound any guns in Hole’s possession and prohibit him from legally being able to purchase more.

In the March 2020 incident, police visited Hole’s home to seize a pump-action shotgun after his mother reported that she feared he would attempt to commit “suicide by cop.”

Mears has blamed imperfections in the state’s red flag law for preventing him from using it in that case.

Earlier this year, he noted changes made to the law in 2019 now require the courts to make a “good-faith effort” to hold a hearing within 14 days to determine whether a person should have access to guns.

Mears said two weeks wasn’t enough time to subpoena medical records and prove Hole’s propensity for violence or suicidal thoughts, something prosecutors would need to persuade a judge Hole should not be allowed to possess a gun.

But we now know other police records were available that could have been quite persuasive in making that case.

Through an extended battle with Indianapolis police for public records, The Star reported last week that it obtained a police report that shows Hole was accused of punching his mother in the face and stabbing her with a table knife in 2013. He was 11 years old.

The Star says it’s unclear whether Mears’ office was aware of the 2013 incident when it decided not to file a red flag case in 2020. An office spokesperson declined to comment to The Star on whether prosecutors took the earlier incident into account.

What is clear is that, if reporters were able to find the 2013 police report, prosecutors and police should have been able to find it, especially when the community’s very safety depended on it.

Instead, the failure to seek a court order allowed Hole to purchase more high-power rifles—an HM Defense HM15F in July 2020 and a Ruger AR-556 in September 2020, the very weapons he used in the deadly FedEx shootings.

Unless Mears can offer some unforeseen explanation, there are only two conclusions to be drawn from this whole devastatingly sad affair.

Either Mears and the Prosecutor’s Office should have been more diligent in gathering the records needed to invoke the red flag law or they inexplicably decided not to use the records to help make the case that Hole should not have been allowed to possess firearms.

Neither scenario is acceptable.•

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