Published August 06, 2012
A 40-year-old Army veteran and suspected white supremacist who gunned down six inside a Milwaukee-area Sikh temple shot the responding officer eight to nine times before he was killed by police, authorities said Monday.
Officials said the gunman, whom they identified as Wade Michael Page, walked into the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin on Sunday and opened fire with a 9mm semi-automatic handgun as several dozen people prepared for morning services. The victims ranged in age from 39 to 84, authorities said. Three others were wounded and remain in critical condition, including 51-year-old veteran police officer Brian Murphy.
Authorities said during a Monday press conference that there is no reason to believe anyone other than Page was involved in the shooting in the Milwaukee suburb of Oak Creek. The FBI had shown a photo of a person wanted for questioning, but after talking with the man, he was not found to be tied to the shooting.
FBI Special Agent in Charge, Teresa Carlson, said a motive is still under investigation, and noted that authorities are looking at Page's "ties to white supremacist groups."
Carlson said the shooting is being investigated as a "possible act of terrorism." She said the suspect "had contact with law enforcement in the past," but said there was no reason to believe he was capable of such violence.
"Nobody knew that this guy was a threat," Carlson said.
Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards said police received a distress call at 10:25 a.m. from inside the temple. He said the shooting suspect ambushed and opened fire on Murphy, a 20-year veteran of the police force, after he showed up on scene and tried to help a victim outside. Murphy was shot by the suspect eight to nine times, Edwards said.
Other officers responding to the scene exchanged rounds of gunfire with the suspect before "putting the individual down," Edwards said.
Four people were found dead inside the temple, while three, including the suspected shooter, were found dead outside. The victims were identified Monday as Sita Singh, 41, Ranjit Singh, 49, Satwant Singh Kaleka, 65, Prakash Singh, 39, Paramjit Kaur, 41, and Suveg Singh, 84.
Sources close to the investigation told Fox News that Page was at one time attached to the Fort Bragg Army installation in North Carolina.
Authorities said Page enlisted in April 1992 and was discharged from the Army in 1998 "under honorable conditions," which is less than honorable discharge. While not as negative as a dishonorable discharge, such a release would preclude one from reenlisting or entering another military service, sources explained to Fox News. Reuters reported that the discharge was for "patterns of misconduct," including being drunk on duty.
Page served at Fort Bliss, Texas, in the psychological operations unit in 1994, and was last stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., attached to the psychological operations unit. He was an E4 psychological operations specialist, but was never deployed. He was awarded the Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct award, the National Defense Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal and Parachutist Badge.
The shooting left the local Sikh community devastated. Sikhism, a monotheistic faith founded in South Asia more than 500 years ago, has roughly 27 million followers worldwide. Most are in India, though there are an estimated 500,000 in the U.S. 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 the entire community.
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.
Satwant Singh Kaleka, president of the temple, was one of those killed. Sources told Fox News he attempted to tackle the suspect as he sprayed gunfire inside the temple.
A woman who says she was a neighbor of the suspect tells FoxNews.com that last week she heard yelling coming from the apartment she believes is the same one the FBI is now searching.
The neighbor says, as she understood it, the suspect had lived in the apartment with his girlfriend until their recent break-up. The suspect had then moved into another apartment nearby two weeks ago. She says he had returned to the old apartment and was banging on the door of his old apartment, demanding to be let in. The neighbor also said she believed the suspect had a 9-11 tattoo.
Another local resident Kurt Weins told the Journal Sentinel he rented out the upper flat of the duplex to a man in his 40s.
"I had him checked out and he definitely checked out," Weins told the newspaper. "The cops told me they don't want me to say nothing right now."
Fox News' Justin Fishel, Mike Levine, Jana Winter and the Associated Press contributed to this report.