The son of a man killed in a 2021 mass shooting at an Indianapolis FedEx facility filed a federal lawsuit Thursday with two of the survivors against the distributor of the 60-round magazine used by the gunman, alleging the use of reckless marketing tactics targeting young men at risk for violent behavior.
The lawsuit — filed almost exactly two years after the shooting that killed eight people — alleges that American Tactical, Inc. failed to take steps to help prevent dangerous people from obtaining the high-capacity magazine, which allow shooters to fire dozens of rounds without having to reload.
Instead, the lawsuit says the company specifically targeted its products to a "consumer base filled with impulsive young men who feel they need to harm others in order to prove their strength and who have militaristic delusions of fighting in a war or a video game." It points to action-movie-style marketing videos that were posted on American Tactical's YouTube page featuring men firing round after round in tactical vests — similar to one worn by the FedEx facility shooter.
“American Tactical, Inc. is well aware that these magazines are instruments of mass killing and have no problem marketing them directly to people with horrific intentions,” said Gurinder Singh Bains. whose father, Jaswinder Singh, died in the shooting.
“This isn’t a hypothetical. My father is gone because they didn’t care they were enabling mass shooters. They have to be held accountable not just for my father’s sake but everyone who may still suffer what my family and I have been forced to go through," he said in an emailed statement.
The complaint also names as defendants the president of American Tactical, the company’s marketing director, as well as Schmeisser GmbH — the German manufacturer of the high-capacity magazine — and 365 Plus, the global distributor.
A person who answered the phone for American Tactical said the company had no immediate comment. Email seeking comment was sent to Schmeisser GmbH and 365 Plus.
The lawsuit was filed in federal court in New York, where a law passed in 2021 opened the door to civil cases brought against the gun industry by classifying the illegal marketing and sale of firearms as a “public nuisance.”
The firearms industry has said that manufacturers aren’t at fault when people misuse their products, drawing a comparison to other products, like cars, that can also be used to hurt people.
Gunmakers are typically immune from lawsuits over crimes committed with their products under federal law, but survivors and families are increasingly seeking to hold the industry accountable by following in the footsteps of families of victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting in Connecticut. They won a $73 million settlement from gunmaker Remington over marketing practices.
Last year, survivors of the mass shooting at a suburban Chicago Independence Day parade and family members of those killed filed 11 lawsuits against the manufacturer of the rifle used in the attack, accusing gun-maker Smith & Wesson of illegally targeting its ads at young men at risk of committing mass violence. And in November, the mother of a girl killed in the Uvalde, Texas school mass shooting similarly sued the maker of the AR-style semiautomatic rifle the gunman used to fire more than 100 rounds.
In addition to Jaswinder Singh’s son, other plaintiffs include two people who survived the shooting. Harpreet Singh was standing in line to pick up his paycheck when he was shot in the head. Lakhwinder Kaur was going to help a coworker who was slumped over when a bullet lacerated her arm, according to the lawsuit.
The 19-year-old gunman, Brandon Scott Hole, began firing randomly at people in the parking lot of the FedEx facility on April 15, 2021, killing four, before entering the building, killing four more people and then turning the gun on himself. The eight FedEx employees killed included four members of Indianapolis’ Sikh community.
The lawsuit says the shooter needed the high-capacity magazine to "accomplish his mission to kill and terrorize as many people as possible." He was emboldened by “knowing he had the ability to fire 60 rounds continuously without the need to pause to reload," the complaint says.
The lawsuit says American Tactical was obligated to take measures to minimize the risk that dangerous people like the shooter could obtain the product. Instead, anyone — "regardless of age, criminal history, or mental health history” — can buy high-capacity magazines like the one used by Hole directly from American Tactical's website, the complaint says.
“Gun manufacturers and distributors know that high capacity magazines are favored by mass shooters due to their ability to kill as many people as possible, therefore American Tactical should have enacted reasonable safeguards to prevent such magazines from falling into the hands of those who should not have them," said Kris Brown, president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which helped bring the lawsuit.
“They failed to do so, and these families are paying that price," she added in her statement.
FedEx, which is not a party in the lawsuit, said Thursday in a statement that “April 15 will always be a somber day of reflection for our company as we continue to mourn our team members lost in the tragedy.”
“Providing a safe and secure work environment for our team members at all times remains our top priority,” the company continued.
Richer reported from Boston. Associated Press reporter Lindsay Whitehurst contributed from Washington.