Hundreds honor victims of Sikh temple shooting massacre in Wisconsin

Published August 10, 2012

| FoxNews.com

Mourners from as far away as India gathered Friday to pay their final respects to six worshippers gunned down by a white supremacist at a Sikh temple in suburban Milwaukee.

Hundreds gathered in the Oak Creek High School gymnasium Friday morning where six caskets are standing as photos of those killed flash across a large video screen and a Sikh priest speaks in the native Indian Punjabi.

Mourners, some wearing scarves on their heads in Sikh tradition, came from all over the country, as well as from India, England and Canada.

Afterward, they plan to return to the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin where the shootings took place Sunday morning. There, a series of priests will read the Sikh holy book from cover to cover in a traditional rite honoring the dead called "Akhand Path." That process takes 48 hours.

"We want to pay homage to the spirits who are still in there," said Harpreet Singh, a nephew of one of the victims.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder as well as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan are also expected to attend. 

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that family and close friends of those killed will attend a final gathering Friday before the victims' bodies are cremated. Two of the families are considering cremation of their loved ones in India, according to the newspaper, and Parkash Singh Badal, the chief minister of Punjab, a state in northwest India, said his government offered to oversee the arrangement to take the victims to India. 

Federal investigators might never know for certain why 40-year-old Wade Michael Page chose to attack total strangers in a holy place last Sunday. What they know is that the Army veteran opened fire with a 9 mm pistol at the temple, shortly before Sunday services were due to begin.

Page killed five men and one woman, and injured two other men. Authorities say he then ambushed the first police officer who responded, shooting him nine times and leaving him in critical condition. A second officer then shot Page in the stomach from about 75 feet away, and Page took his own life with a shot to the head.

The officer who was injured, Oak Creek Police Lt. Brian Murphy, was upgraded Thursday to satisfactory condition.

The dead included Satwant Singh Kaleka, 65, the temple president who was shot as he tried to fend off Page with a butter knife.

The other victims included:

-- Ranjit Singh, 49, and his 41-year-old brother, Sita Singh, two priests whose families were back in India and whose lives in America revolved around their faith;

-- Suveg Singh Khattra, 84, a former farmer in India who was a constant presence at the temple;

-- Prakash Singh, 39, a priest who was remembered as a fun-loving personality who enjoyed telling jokes; and

-- Paramjit Kaur, 41 who worked 66 hours a week to provide for her family, but also found time to pray every day for at least an hour.

The FBI roped off the temple for four days while agents conducted their investigation. They handed the keys back to Sikh leaders Thursday morning. Workers then spent the day cleaning up, repairing bullet damage, shampooing carpets and repainting walls to rid the temple of traces of the carnage.

As children played outside and women cooked an impromptu meal in the temple's kitchen, Amardeep Kaleka, the temple president's son, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that a more positive spirit existed after the temple was cleaned.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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