Deadly Shooting At Temple Near Milwaukee Hits Home For Chicago Sikhs

CHICAGO (CBS) — “Unreal” is how a Chicago area man describes the scene in Oak Creek, Wisc., after seven people were killed — including the alleged gunman — in a shooting at a Sikh temple on Sunday.

Balbir Singh lives in Carpentersville, but attends church one night a week at the Oak Creek temple – or gurdwara.

WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Miller reports Singh works in Milwaukee on weekdays, and attends Thursday night services at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Miller reports

He said he’s been in touch with friends who are there and escaped the shooting, and are now trying to make sense of it all.

“They don’t understand it. It’s unreal,” he said.

Singh said a musical program was scheduled for Sunday at the temple, featuring a man playing the tabla, or drums.

One woman he spoke with was able to escape, but hadn’t been able to find her husband outside the temple. Others have been unable to find their children amid the chaos.

“Some of the parents that I’ve contacted – they cannot locate their kids,” Singh said.

Singh says a woman he knows had not been able to locate her husband.

“They’re all panicked. They’re in different situations. Some are more panicked than the others. The kids are, of course, all worried.”

For most of the day, members of Palatine’s Sikh temple – the oldest in the Midwest — have been keeping a close eye on the news, looking for updates about their friends from this Sikh Temple, or gurdwara, in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.

“It was dreadful — very, very shocking day. The news actually broke our hearts,” Sukhdev Ghumen, president of the Sikh Religious Society of Palatine, tells CBS 2’s Courtney Gousman.

Ghumen says Sunday’s news created an uncomfortable feeling throughout her temple during service.

“People were afraid, feeling what should we do next? I did make a call to Palatine police,” said Ghumen.

Palatine Police agreed to step-up patrols Sunday surrounding the temple, and members say they are now working on changing some of their security policies.

Sikhs tell CBS 2, they are commonly confused with Muslims, and in the wake of 9/11, their temple has been vandalized several times.

“Our policy is all open door policy,” Ghumen says. “We greet and treat everybody, no matter who they are. We will be thinking twice to ask those to invite people over.”

The Sikh temple in Palatine will have a prayer service for the victims on Saturday. That service will begin at 3:00 p.m. and will be open to public.

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