Wisconsin Sikh Temple Gunman Identified As Army Vet, White Supremacist
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Updated 08/06/12 – 4:49 p.m.
(CBS) – Authorities said Monday they are confident the gunman who killed six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin acted alone. The shooter has been identified as a U.S. Army veteran, and a former leader of a white supremacist heavy metal band.
Authorities have said Wade Michael Page, 40, walked into the Sikh gurdwara – or house of worship – in Oak Creek, Wisc., on Sunday, armed with a 9mm handgun, and opened fire on worshippers without saying a word.
Six of his victims died, and three others were critically wounded, including a police officer who responded to the shooting. Authorities said Page ambushed a responding officer, shooting him at least eight times, then opened fire on a second officer, who returned fire and killed Page.
The FBI initially also wanted to speak to a “person of interest” in the shootings, showing his photo during a news conference on Monday, after the man showed up at the scene of the Sunday shooting, and witnesses reported he was acting suspiciously.
“I saw a person with a tattoo on his body back here, taking pictures of us, that we confronted. And then he ran and sped away in a red car with no hubcaps,” said Amardeep Kaleka, whose father, Satwant Kaleka, was president of the gurdwara, and died trying to protect others during the shooting.
The FBI has since identified the man earlier identified as a “person of interest,” questioned him, and ruled him out as being connected to the shooting rampage.
Authorities have said Page acted alone, but have yet to comment on his motive.
CBS 2 Investigator Dave Savini reports Page was a psychological operations specialist for the U.S. Army at Ft. Bragg, N.C., in the late 1990s, although he never spent time overseas.
Page received a humanitarian service medal, but according to the Pentagon, he was also demoted from sergeant to specialist in 1998 for getting drunk on duty, and received a less than honorable discharge and a 1999 drunk driving conviction in Colorado.
FBI officials said Page wasn’t a target of any past investigations that they are aware of.
“We did not have an active investigation on him prior to yesterday,” FBI Special Agent Teresa Carlson said Monday. “There may be references to him in various files. Those are things that are being analyzed right now, but we had no reason to believe – as far as I know, no law enforcement agency had any reason to believe – that he was planning, or plotting, or capable of such violence.”
Page is accused of being a white supremacist neo-Nazi, and investigators were closely examining his tattoos for clues on his possible ties to neo-Nazi and other white supremacist groups.
He headed what’s being called a white-power band called “End Apathy,” and, in 2005, Page gave an interview to the white supremacist record company Label56, in which he described his band as being inspired by “trying to figure out what it would take to actually accomplish positive results in society and what is holding us back.”
He told Label56 the topics of the songs he wrote for the band “vary from sociological issues, religion, and how the value of human life has been degraded by being submissive to tyranny and hypocrisy that we are subjugated to.”
Page’s band mates had previously belonged to a group called “Definite Hate.” End Apathy was set at the time of the interview to play at the Independent Artist Uprise Festival, a music event for bands that play “hatecore,” or hardcore punk with white supremacist themes.
Page said in the interview that he had been part of the white supremacist music scene since 2000, when he left his native state of Colorado on a motorcycle. He had played in several other white power bands before starting End Apathy, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported.
In 2000, Page also tried to purchase goods from the National Alliance, a once-powerful neo-Nazi group that “seeks to build a fascist state peopled solely by whites,” the Southern Poverty Law Center reported.
Label56, a promoter of his band, issued a sincere apology on Monday in the wake of the shooting in Wisconsin.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Label56 is a white supremacist organization.
One last interesting connection is that Page once lived a few miles from Columbine High School, in the years leading up to and just after the school massacres there.
Oak Creek police Chief John Edwards said the victims of Sunday’s shooting included five men and a 41-year-old woman, and ranged in age between 39 and 84.
The oldest victim was Suveg Singh Khattra, 84, according to his son.
The killing spree started around 10:30 a.m. Sunday as worshipers gathered at the temple, or gurdwara, at 7512 S. Howell Ave. in Oak Creek, Wis.
The president of the gurdwara tried to hold the attacker, but was shot in the back. The president, identified by his niece as Satwant Kaleka, 65, later died at Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee.
“My father was shot several times in the lower extremities, and probably bled out before anybody could got to him, and he died a peaceful death,” Armadeep Kaleka said.
Nearly 40 members of the temple – mostly the elderly and women – were preparing for worship when the gunman opened fire. Many women, including Armadeep Kaleka’s wife, hid in a pantry.
“She kept it cool and calm in the closet when the guy was trying to shoot her, and kept the other women cool and calm, and told them to hush and put their phone on silent,” Armadeep Kaleka said.
Worshippers were shocked after the shooting.
“There was one guy outside. It’s just bang – first shot, and he just went inside. I was just hiding,” one man said.
“My mom called my cousin. She said that her and 15 others locked themselves in the pantry,” one woman said.
The gunman also ambushed a 20-year veteran of the Oak Creek Police Department before backup stepped in.
The officer, identified as Lt. Brian Murphy, 51, remained hospitalized in critical condition Monday morning, Edwards said.
Members gathered outside once police took over and killed the gunman. SWAT teams swept the temple and surrounded the area for hours.
Federal law enforcement has not released a motive in the shooting beyond the fact that it is believed to be a case of domestic terrorism.
The police officers and two other men who were wounded were taken to a nearby hospital. One was shot in the face, another in the neck, and a third was shot in the abdomen and chest.