Reporting Susanna Song
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UPDATED 08/06/12 12:03 p.m.
OAK CREEK, Wis. (CBS) — The niece of the president of a Sikh temple in suburban Milwaukee said there is no way to make sense of a mass-shooting that left six people dead – including her uncle.
Simran Kaleka, the niece of Oak Creek Sikh gurdwara president Satwant Kaleka, said the shooting is particularly difficult to comprehend, given the message of equality and oneness that defines the Sikh faith.
“You can’t make sense of the shooting. You know, for a community that leaves their doors open, you know, and is just not prejudiced toward any religious, any creed, anything, we really just can’t understand why,” Simran Kaleka told CBS 2’s Susanna Song Monday morning.
So far, the FBI has only said the shooting was a case of domestic terrorism. But Kaleka wondered if the worshipers had been targeted with the assumption that they were Muslims.
“And you know, there’s so many questions going on of why – did he confuse us with the Islamic faith?” she said. “And granted, we’re totally different, but that doesn’t make it right either way, because we’re all human. And we should be able to respect each other’s cultures, respect each other’s religions, and live in a unified world. It’s sad that all my loved ones, families, Sikh people come from India, and they still suffer. It’s sad.”
Police and witnesses said Satwant Kaleka tried to restrain the attacker during the shooting, but was shot in the back. He was later pronounced dead 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,” his son, Armadeep Kaleka, said.
Satwant Kaleka’s family described him as a man for others to the end.
“He was a protector, you know, and he left this world as such. He went protecting, you know, trying to bring down the gunman – protecting his church, protecting his people, protecting his loved-ones, and now we have to find a way to protect our hearts after this,” Simran Kaleka said. “It’s hard, and just to know there’s other families that are grieving the same way that we’re grieving is really hard.”
The family is angry, but they’ll react differently, Kaleka’s son said.
“We need to, like, take that anger and do our best and seek the energy to look at people who are different, and ask them about their culture,” Armadeep Kaleka said. “This has to do with miseducation or misunderstanding, or a lot of cultural intolerance.”
Satwant Kaleka, 65, had been president of the temple since 1996, his niece said.
Amardeep Kaleka said his father came to the U.S. with $30, worked 18 hour days at a gas station, and built wealth with overtime. He used that money not for himself, but to give back to the Sikh community, his son said.
Kaleka and the five other victims were killed, and three others – including a 20-year veteran Oak Creek police officer – were wounded in the shooting before police shot and killed the gunman.
The gunman, identified as Wade Michael Page, 40, is described as a heavy-set white man with tattoos all over his body who used a 9mm semiautomatic pistol. Page was a psychological operations specialist in U.S. Army who received a less than honorable discharge, and a neo-Nazi who fronted a white supremacist band called End Apathy, according to multiple sources.
The motive for the massacre remains under investigation.