OAK CREEK, Wis. — An unidentified gunman killed six people at a Sikh temple in suburban Milwaukee on Sunday in a rampage that left terrified congregants hiding in closets and others texting friends outside for help. The suspect was killed outside the temple in a shootout with police officers.
Police called the attack an act of domestic terrorism by a suspect federal authorities described as a white man in his 40s, but neither provided further details or suggested a possible motive, including whether he specifically targeted the Sikh temple.
"We never thought this could happen to our community," said Devendar Nagra, 48, of Mount Pleasant, whose sister escaped injury by hiding as the gunman fired in the temple's kitchen. "We never did anything wrong to anyone."
Late Sunday, the investigation appeared to move beyond the temple as police, federal agents and the county sheriff's bomb squad swarmed a neighborhood in nearby Cudahy, evacuated several homes and searched a duplex. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent Tom Ahern said warrants were being served at the home of the gunman.
"He did not speak, he just began shooting," said Harpreet Singh, relaying a description of the attack from the wife of his uncle, temple president Satwant Singh Kaleka.
Singh said Satpal Kaleka told him she was in the front room when the shooter walked in. She said the 6-foot-tall bald white man – who worshippers said they had never before seen at the temple – seemed like he had a purpose and knew where he was going.
Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards said police expected to release more information Monday. He said the FBI will lead the investigation because the shootings are being treated as domestic terrorism, or an attack that originated inside the U.S.
"While the FBI is investigating whether this matter might be an act of domestic terrorism, no motive has been determined at this time," Teresa Carlson, Special Agent in Charge with the agency's Milwaukee division, said in a Sunday night statement.
During a chaotic few hours after the first shots were fired around 10:30 a.m., police in tactical gear and carrying assault rifles surrounded the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin with armored vehicles and ambulances. Witnesses struggled with unrealized fears that several shooters were holding women and children hostage inside.
One of the first officers to respond to frantic 911 calls seeking help was shot several times as he tended to a wounded victim, and was in critical condition along with two other victims Sunday night, authorities said. Police said the officer was expected to survive.
Jatinder Mangat, 38, of Racine, another nephew of the temple's president, said his uncle was among those shot, but he didn't know the extent of his injuries. When Mangat later learned people had died, he said "it was like the heart just sat down."
Edwards said the gunman "ambushed" one of the first officers to arrive at the temple as the officer, a 20-year veteran with tactical experience, tended to a victim outside. A second officer then exchanged gunfire with the suspect, who was fatally shot. Police had earlier said the officer who was shot killed the suspected shooter.
Tactical units went through the temple and found four people dead inside and two outside, in addition to the shooter.
Gurpreet Kaur, 24, of Oak Creek, said her mother and a group of about 14 other women were preparing a meal in the temple kitchen when the gunman entered and started firing. Kaur said her mother felt two bullets fly by her as the group fled to the pantry. Her mother suffered what Kaur thought was shrapnel wound in her foot.
"These are people I've grown up with," she said. "They're like aunts and uncles to me. To see our community to go through something like this is numbing."
Many Sikhs in the U.S. worship on Sundays at a temple, or gurdwara, and a typical service consists of meditation and singing in a prayer room where worshippers remove their shoes and sit on the floor. Worshippers gather afterward for a meal that is open to community members, regardless of their religious beliefs.
Kaur said she spent the afternoon serving as a translator between law enforcement and survivors at a nearby bowling alley. Police investigators kept witnesses inside the bowling alley's basement into the evening.
"We don't even know who's downstairs," Ravi P. Singh, 25, of Greenfield, said after going to the bowling alley to see if he could get more information about what had happened.
Sixteen-year-old LeRon Bridges, of Oak Creek, works at the bowling alley said police brought people from the temple over in two armored trucks. At one point, about 50 to 60 people were at the bowling alley, including police officers questioning witnesses and paramedics treating victims' wounds, he said.
"They were just hysterical," Bridges said. "There were kids. One big load came out of the truck."
Sikhism is a monotheistic faith founded more than 500 years ago in South Asia. It has roughly 27 million followers worldwide. Observant Sikhs do not cut their hair; male followers often cover their heads with turbans – which are considered sacred – and refrain from shaving their beards. There are roughly 500,000 Sikhs in the U.S., according to estimates. The majority worldwide live in India.
The Sikh Temple of Wisconsin started in 1997 with about 25 families who gathered in community halls in Milwaukee. Construction on the current temple in Oak Creek began in 2006, according to the temple's website.
Sikh rights groups have reported a rise in bias attacks since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The Washington-based Sikh Coalition has reported more than 700 incidents in the U.S. since 9/11, which advocates blame on anti-Islamic sentiment. Sikhs are not Muslims, but their long beards and turbans often cause them to be mistaken for Muslims, advocates say.
Police in New York and Chicago issued statements saying they were giving Sikh temples in those cities additional attention as a precaution after the shooting, which also came two weeks after a gunman killed 12 people at movie theater in Colorado.
Valarie Kaur, who chronicled violence against Sikh Americans in the 2006 documentary "Divided We Fall," was returning to her home in New Haven, Conn., after speaking at a White House conference Friday when she heard about the shootings.
Even though the gunman's motives were a mystery Sunday, Kaur said the shootings reopened wounds in a community whose members have found themselves frequent targets of hate-based attacks since Sept. 11.
"We are experiencing it as a hate crime," she said. "Every Sikh American today is hurting, grieving and afraid."
___Associated Press writers Gretchen Ehlke in Milwaukee; Patrick Condon in Minneapolis; Sophia Tareen and Michelle Janaye Nealy in Chicago; and Larry Neumeister in New York contributed to this report.
Wisconsin shooter Wade Michael Page used a Springfield 9mm semiautomatic handgun to carry out the attack at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., Reuters reported. According to gun experts, the semiautomatic handgun is the same type used in other recent U.S. mass shootings, including one at a theater in Colorado and the attack on a congresswoman in Arizona.
Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) has for months been advocating that the FBI collect data on hate crimes against Sikh Americans. Sunday's tragedy in Wisconsin, in which six people were killed at a Sikh temple, underscores his push.
"This is not the first time that Sikhs have been attacked," Crowley, whose New York City district includes parts of Queens and the Bronx, told The Huffington Post in an interview on Monday. "Unfortunately it's been growing consistently, on an ongoing basis. That's what my concern has been."
Wade Michael Page was the subject of federal attention more than once prior to Sunday's deadly shooting, according to the Los Angeles Times:
Federal investigators had “looked at” Sikh temple gunman Wade Michael Page more than once because of his associations with right-wing extremists and the possibility that he was providing funding to a domestic terrorist group, but law enforcement officials at the time determined there was not enough evidence of a crime to open an investigation, a senior U.S. law enforcement official said.
Full story here.
President Barack Obama said on Monday that mass killings like the weekend shooting rampage at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin were happening with "too much regularity" and should prompt soul searching by all Americans on ways to reduce gun violence.
"All of us are heart-broken by what happened," Obama told reporters at the White House a day after a gunman opened fire on Sikh worshippers preparing for religious services, killing six before he was shot dead by a police officer.
Asked whether he would push for more gun-control measures in the wake of the shootings, Obama said he wanted to bring together leaders at all levels of American society to examine ways to curb gun violence.
That echoed his pledge last month in a speech in New Orleans to work broadly to "arrive at a consensus" on the contentious issue after a deadly Colorado shooting spree highlighted the issue in an election year. But like his earlier comments, Obama offered no timetable or specifics for such discussions.
Full story here.
The connections between mass media and mass murder are often tenuous -- commentators were reluctant, for example, to indict the "Dark Knight" movie trilogy for the horrific shootings at Aurora, Colo., three weeks ago.
But it's harder to dismiss the revelation that Wade Michael Page, the man shot to death by police after a shooting spree that killed six worshipers in a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin on Sunday, belonged to a hardcore skinhead band called End Apathy.
Why? Because according to TJ Lindley, who was an active skinhead for 15 years before defecting and writing a book about his experiences, bands like End Apathy often have direct connections with the white supremacy movement.
"If you're in a white supremacy band, you are extremely active. You do not get involved in a band and doing stuff like that unless you are completely 100-percent dedicated to the movement," Lindley said.
Read more here.
Alleged Sikh temple shooter Wade Michael Page joined a skinhead group in 2011 and played in bands with violent lyrics. The Daily Beast's Eliza Shapiro explains why he’s been on the Anti-Defamation League’s radar.
Oak Creek (Wis.) Patch reports:
Satwant Singh Kaleka’s final action at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin was one of heroism.
When Wade Michael Page, the suspected gunman in Sunday’s tragic shooting, opened fire, the 65-year-old temple president rushed to stop him — possibly preventing more deaths.
“He was trying his best to give time for people to get to security,” said his son, Amardeep Kaleka, during a news conference at the Salvation Army in Oak Creek Monday.
Full story here.
Funds are starting to be set up for victims and families affected by Sunday's tragic shooting at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin. Head over to HuffPost Impact for a roundup of ways you can help.
Via HuffPost Politics:
President Barack Obama ordered flags at all U.S. government facilities both at home and abroad to be flown at half-staff Monday, a response to a mass-shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin over the weekend.
"As a mark of respect for the victims of the senseless acts of violence perpetrated on August 5, 2012, in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, by the authority vested in me as President of the United States by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, I hereby order that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset, August 10, 2012," Obama wrote in the proclamation.
Full story here.
Dr. Harry Croft, a former Army psychiatrist who has evaluated more than 7,000 PTSD patients, delivered an emailed statement to The Huffington Post on this possibility:
"People need to be cautious and not jump to conclusions that this was another soldier suffering from PTSD or another mental condition. It’s quite possible his military background played no part in this, because it would appear that if he served from 92-98, he would have not been deployed in Desert Storm, Iraq or Afghanistan - and it’s extremely unlikely for a veteran suffering PTSD or other mental condition would commit such a heinous act."
From Fort Bragg Patch:
The spokesman for the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office has posted redacted gun permits dated in 2008 for Wade Michael Page, identified by authorities as the suspect in Sunday's Wisconsin Sikh temple shootings. The five permits issued are good for five years.
According to the North Carolina Rifle & Pistol Association, all handgun transfers in North Carolina require that the intended recipient obtain a Pistol Purchase Permit from his/her local Sheriff.
One Pistol Purchase Permit is required per handgun at apiece. When the owner takes possession of the handgun, they must present the permit to the seller, who must keep it in his or her records. It is a Class 1 misdemeanor if the transaction takes place without the permit being presented.
Pictures are emerging of the alleged shooter of seven people at a Wisconsin Sikh temple on Sunday.
Wade Michael Page reportedly had ties to white supremacist groups and was alleged to be a member of a heavy metal band that promoted an ultra-right-wing 'white power' agenda.
The picture below, supplied by the Anti-Defamation League, shows Page in front of a Nazi symbol.
Wade Michael Page, the suspected Sikh temple shooter, was on the radar of the Anti-Defamation League for his involvement with white supremacist groups since 2010, according to Mark Pitcavage, the ADL's director of investigative research.
The ADL obtained photographs of Page playing guitar in front of a large swastika, which it said was taken from the Facebook page for the white supremacist group 'Definite Hate,' in early 2011. That page is no longer active.
Page was a member of Definite Hate, a band affiliated with the 'Hammerskin Nation', a white supremacist group founded in Dallas in the late 1980s, that now controls much of the White Power music scene in the U.S., according to the ADL.
A photo from Facebook shows Page playing guitar in front of a Hammerskin Nation banner, which features two crossed hammers. (Photo Credit: ADL)
-- John Rudolf
From Oak Creek Patch:
Oak Creek Police Lt. Brian Murphy was the first officer to the scene and was ambushed and shot up to nine times while attempting to help an injured victim. When support arrived, he refused help and ordered officers to go into the temple and help others.
Read more here.
HuffPost's David Lohr writes:
Authorities investigating the killing of six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin are trying to identify a person of interest who was at the crime scene after the shooting.
According to Oak Creek police chief John Edwards, the individual "showed up at the scene after the shooting." Edwards said officers who spotted the guy thought "this guy looks suspicious" but he left before they could speak with him.
Authorities cautioned that they do not believe anyone other than the suspected shooter, Wade Michael Page, was involved in the deadly shooting spree.
"We have every reason to believe there was only one shooter ... though our investigation to that end continues," U.S. Attorney James Santelle said at a press conference Monday morning.
Read the full story here.
The shooting at a suburban Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin on Sunday that left seven dead, including the gunman, and three in critical condition hits close to home for victims of the Aurora shooting that took place just over two weeks ago.
Now, some victims of the Aurora shooting are reaching out via social media to Wisconsin victims and urging others in the community to help during this difficult time that Aurora victims understand all too well.
Cody Hickman, a man who was inside theater eight at the Century 16 movie theater complex on the night of the Aurora shooting, wrote this heartfelt message on Sunday on the Aurora Theater Shooting Facebook page:
Friends, my name is Cody Hickman, and I was in theater 8 during the Aurora theater shooting. I am writing this post as a call to action for all of you. All you will be asked to do is repost this message, and help us network some support...
The Coalition To Stop Gun Violence said in a statement today:
Washington, DC—Our hearts are heavy today as we join the nation in mourning the six innocent Americans who were killed yesterday at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. But “thoughts and prayers” are no longer enough in an America that experiences one mass shooting tragedy after another. For those who are in a position to take action that would save lives, it is immoral to share condolences and then immediately abdicate any responsibility to fight for the reforms that would prevent the next massacre. It’s time for all people of conscience to send a clear and loud message to their elected officials: Restore sanity to the screening system for gun buyers in this cou ntry, or we will vote you out of office.
The gunman in Oak Creek, 40 year-old neo-Nazi Wade Michael Page, had much in common with other recent mass shooters. He used a semiautomatic firearm with high-capacity ammunition magazines. And he was able to purchase his guns and ammo legally despite a personal history replete with red flags. Page was an Army veteran who had been discharged under less than honorable conditions. He had a criminal history. Most importantly, Page had been publicly involved in the White Power movement since 2000. He was known to both federal law enforcement authorities and also anti-hate watch groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center. And this is just what we know after a few hours.
This country deserves a firearm policy that prevents military-style hardware from falling into the hands of dangerous and deranged individuals. Our daily experience with gruesome violence is not inevitable. Let’s be clear: The repeated nature of these events is the direct result of the poor policy choices made by our elected leaders. Americans can solve big problems when they set their minds to it. Today is the day to start making these changes. We ask every American to call their elected representatives today and demand immediate reform. It’s long past time to stand up to the National Rifle Association and say, “Enough.”
|@ BreakingNews : Police: Gunman in Sikh temple shooting shot 1st officer to respond 8 to 9 times with handgun - @AP|
|@ BreakingNews : FBI says no reason to believe anyone other than slain gunman was involved in the Sikh temple shooting - @AP|
India's prime minister said he was shocked Monday by the shooting attack that killed six people at a Sikh house of worship in the United States, and the top Sikh cleric accused the American government of a "security lapse."
"That this senseless act of violence should be targeted at a place of religious worship is particularly painful," he said in a statement.
Giani Gurbachan Singh, the head priest of Akal Takht, the highest Sikh temporal seat, called on Sikhs in the U.S. to adopt security measures at the U.S. temples, including installing closed-circuit cameras.
"This is a security lapse on the part of the U.S. government," he said, according to the Press Trust of India news agency. He called for prayers for the victims to be said at Sikh temples across India and ordered a Sikh delegation sent to the U.S. to investigate the attack.
Read more here.
|@ BreakingNews : US military sources: Suspected Wisconsin temple shooter discharged from Army in 1998 for 'patterns of misconduct' - @Reuters|
From Oak Creek Patch:
Speaking with Oak Creek Patch after a round of national television interviews, Mayor Steve Scaffidi said it will take some time for the community to heal.
A memorial event is planned on Tuesday during National Night Out, which will be held as scheduled.
"You're going to feel the effects of this for a long time," he said. "We're going to work toward healing."
Scaffidi said he did not have any previous contacts with the Sikh Temple but knew them as a "great member of the community" that did not have past problems in Oak Creek. The Sikh Temple moved here about five years ago.
Scaffidi said the phone call he received from President Barack Obama Sunday afternoon was "startling." But the two- or three-minute conversation was very comforting, he said, as the president offered whatever federal resources are needed.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker ordered flags to half-staff to remember and mourn the tragic events at Oak Creek. In a statement, Walker sai:
"The people of Wisconsin join the Sikh community in mourning those killed yesterday and in remembering their lives," said Governor Scott Walker. "As our state comes together to care for the survivors, our hope is that the families and the whole Oak Creek community find healing and strength in the memory of their loved ones."
According to Army records, the alleged shooter, Wade Michael Page, served in the U.S. Army from April 1992 until October 1998, reaching the rank of specialist E-4. He was assigned to psychological operations, a branch of the Army devoted to deception and propaganda. He trained at Fort Bliss,Tex., and was stationed at Fort Bragg where he had jump training.
There is no record of him receiving special weapons training. His awards show a standard level of achievement in the Army:
Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, the Army Good Conduct, the National Defense Service Medal the Humanitarian Service Medal and the Parachutist Badge.
-- David Wood
From the Southern Poverty Law Center:
The man who allegedly murdered six people at a Sikh temple in suburban Milwaukee yesterday, identified in media reports as Wade Michael Page, was a frustrated neo-Nazi who had been the leader of a racist white-power band.
In 2010, Page, then the leader of the band End Apathy, gave an interview to the white supremacist website Label 56. He said that when he started the band in 2005, its name reflected his wish to “figure out how to end people’s apathetic ways” and start “moving forward.” “I was willing to point out some of my faults on how I was holding myself back,” Page said.
The man suspected of shooting and killing six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin on Sunday is former Army soldier Wade Michael Page, 40, several law enforcement officials familiar with the investigation said Monday.
The shooter was killed by an officer at the scene.
Sources have reportedly told ABC News that the shooting at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., is the work of a "white supremacist" or "skinhead." However, authorities have not released such allegations to the public, nor have they offered a motive for the attack.
HuffPost's Jen Bendery reports:
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she is "devastated" by the mass shootings in Oak Creek, Wis., but said when it comes to revisiting the issue of gun control, Congress just doesn't have the votes to pass any laws.
"The votes aren't there for gun control," she said. "We certainly aren't going to be able to do it in this Congress, and I don't know that we would be able to do it in a Democratic Congress because it takes a lot of votes to go down that path."
Read the whole story here.
From Lower Providence Patch:
According to Philadelphia Sikh Society’s vice president, Harvinder Kauer Kocher, since 9/11, she has noticed reports of acts of violence, intimidation, and in some cases, murder of members of the Sikh community.
“Whoever is wearing a turban in America is 99 percent Sikh,” Kocher said. “Not Muslim.”
Since the attacks, she said, the PSS has attempted to gain more exposure for understanding and welcoming for the Sikh community in the Philadelphia area and throughout the United States.
Locally, such measures have included participation in the annual Philadelphia Interfaith Walk for Peace and Reconciliation, which last took place April 29.
However, Kocher said, more needs to be done by the government and media.
"We are a very small community," Kocher said. "We need the government’s help, and talk on [television] about the suffering."
She suggested that the United States government should have increased gun control laws, and that the media should produce more coverage on the Sikh community for more understanding.
"Why do we have to have a tragedy happen to get good from it?" Kocher said. "And, by good, I mean the media letting people see that we are Sikhs."
Read the whole story here.