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6 killed at Sikh temple

August 6, 2012
The Daily News

OAK CREEK, Wis. (AP) - Officials on Monday identified the gunman they say killed six people inside a Sikh temple in Wisconsin as a 40-year-old Army veteran.

First Assistant U.S. Greg Haanstad in the U.S. Attorney's office in Milwaukee identified the shooter, who was shot and killed by police outside the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, as Wade Michael Page. The ex-Army man was reduced in rank before his discharge about 12 years ago, according to a defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release information yet about the suspect.

The official told The Associated Press Page that Page entered the Army in 1992 and was discharged in 1998. The official said the man had been busted in rank from sergeant to specialist, but gave no reason.

Article Photos

Police personnel walk near the sign outside the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek, Wis., after a shooting Sunday. A gunman killed six people at the suburban Milwaukee temple 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.
AP Photo

When the gunfire at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in suburban Milwaukee ended Sunday, seven people lay dead, including the gunman, and three others were critically wounded in what police called an act of domestic terrorism.

Satpal Kaleka, wife of the temple's president, Satwant Singh Kaleka, was in the front room and saw the gunman enter the temple, according to Harpreet Singh, their nephew.

"He did not speak, he just began shooting," said Singh, relaying a description of the attack from Satpal Kaleka.

Kaleka 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.

"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 moved 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 gunman's home. Residents were allowed to return to their homes Monday.

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 temple with armored vehicles and ambulances. Witnesses struggled with unrealized fears that several shooters were holding women and children hostage inside.

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.

The wounded officer was in critical condition along with two other victims early Monday, authorities said.

Tactical units went through the temple and found four people dead inside and two outside, in addition to the shooter.

Jatinder Mangat, 38, of Racine, a nephew of the temple's president, said when he learned that people had died, "it was like the heart just sat down."

Balginder Khattra of Oak Creek, said Monday that his 84-year-old father, Suveg Singh Khattra, was among the six people police said were killed. Khattra says his father didn't speak English but loved living in America.

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, 2001, 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.

The shootings also came two weeks after a gunman killed 12 people at movie theater in Colorado.

 
 

 

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