A FedEx company policy prohibiting employees from using their cell phones during working hours added an additional layer of confusion to a tragic shooting incident in central Indiana on Thursday night.
Indianapolis police said eight people were killed and at least five others were injured at a FedEx facility on the southwest side of Indianapolis after 11 p.m. Thursday. It appears the suspected shooter committed suicide, authorities said. He was not included in the death toll.
CEO Frederick Smith said in a statement Thursday that the company “has lost eight members of its team in this senseless act of violence.”
“It’s a devastating day and words are hard to describe the emotions we all feel,” Smith said.
Most of the details are still unclear as local police and the FBI are investigating the incident. However, one development emerged from the scene: Fedex workers couldn’t use their cell phones to call for help or let family members know they were okay. Many are now calling on FedEx to immediately end the cell phone restriction policy.
Family members of employees told CBS affiliate WTTV that workers are not allowed to have their cell phones with them when they are at work. Many employees keep their devices in lockers. Relatives said this made contact with loved ones difficult even after the shooting. Workers who survived the incident were sent to a nearby Holiday Inn Express and told to wait for instructions, but they did not have their phones with them when they were at the hotel.
“We don’t know if my nephew is doing well or not,” Charise Grice told WTTV of her nephew Raymond. “We called her phone, texted her. They said their phones were locked – they couldn’t have them at work.”
A FedEx spokesperson confirmed the company’s cell phone policy with CBS MoneyWatch, saying the company only allows certain employees to have cell phone access at work.
“To support security protocols and minimize potential distractions around parcel sorting equipment and dock operations, cell phone access in certain areas of FedEx Ground field operations is restricted to authorized members of the the team, ”the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson declined to say whether FedEx would change the policy, but Business Insider reported on Friday that the company was considering doing so.
On social media, people spent Thursday condemning FedEx for its cell phone policy. Workplace shootings in recent years should have alerted FedEx to the need to allow all workers access to their phones, they said.
Indiana resident Vanessa Waters told CBS Chicago affiliate WBBM that she could not reach her partner due to FedEx cell phone policy.
“She can’t take her phone indoors, so that was a postman,” Waters said. “Because they can’t take their phones with them, a lot of these people are upset because they don’t know if their loved ones are alive or injured or whatever,” Waters said, who also told CBS News’ Charlie de mar that she was concerned that politics would prevent the police from responding sooner.
“This rule should change,” Waters said.