A FedEx company policy that bars employees from using their cell phones during work hours has added an extra layer of confusion to a tragic shooting incident in central Indiana Thursday evening.
Indianapolis police said eight people were killed and at least five others were wounded at a FedEx facility on Indianapolis' southwest side after 11 p.m. Thursday. It appears the suspected gunman killed himself, authorities said. He was not included in the death toll count.
CEO Frederick Smith said in a statement Thursday that the company "lost eight team members in this senseless act of violence."
"This is 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 investigate the incident. However, one development has emerged from the scene: Fedex workers couldn't use their cell phones to call for help or let family members know they were OK. Many are now urging FedEx to abolish the cellphone-restriction policy immediately.
Family members of employees told CBS affiliate WTTV that workers aren't allowed to have their cellphones on them while on the job. Many employees keep their devices in lockers. Relatives said that made it difficult to contact their loved ones even after the shooting. Workers who survived the incident were sent to a nearby Holiday Inn Express and told to await instructions, but didn't have their phones with them while at the hotel.
"We don't know if my nephew is OK or not," Charise Grice told WTTV about her nephew Raymond. "We've been calling his phone, texting him. They said their phones are locked up — they can't have them at work."
A FedEx spokesperson confirmed the company's cellphone policy with CBS MoneyWatch, saying that the company only allows certain employees to have access to a cellphone at work.
"To support safety protocols and minimize potential distractions around package sortation equipment and dock operations, cell phone access within certain areas of FedEx Ground field operations is limited to authorized team members," the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson declined to say if FedEx would change the policy, but Business Insider reported Friday that the company is considering it.
Across social media, people spent Thursday condemning FedEx for its cellphone policy. Shootings at workplaces in recent years should have already alerted FedEx of the need to allow all workers access to their phones, they said.
Indiana resident Vanessa Waters told CBS Chicago affiliate WBBM that she couldn't reach her partner because of FedEx's cellphone policy.
"She can't take her phone inside, so that was a factor," Waters said. "Because they cannot take their phones in, a lot of these people are upset because they don't know if their loved ones are alive or hurt or anything," said Waters, who also told CBS News' Charlie De Mar that she feared the policy prevented police from responding sooner.
"That rule should change," Waters said.