An assailant shot and killed six people Sunday at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. The shooter was killed in a shootout with Oak Park police, in which he wounded a police officer.
Wade Page shot four people inside the temple and two outside. He then engaged in a gun battle with two members of the Oak Park police department, shooting one multiple times before he was killed by another.
Motivation for the incident was unclear, but the FBI is investigating it as an act of domestic terrorism. Page was apparently a member of a white supremacist band, and had been involved in the White Power movement.
In an interview with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Manminder Sehti, a member of the temple, said one of the leaders of the temple, Parkash Singh, had been killed in the attack.
“He was a good guy, a noble soul,” Sehti said.
Sehti said that the temple was rarely closed, but that services are typically held on Sunday mornings.
“It’s like visiting your home. Your home is never closed,” Sehti said.
One of the temple’s committee members said he did not know the motive of the shooter.
“We have no idea,” said Ven Boba Ri. “It’s pretty much a hate crime,” he said, adding that the shooter was “not an insider.”
In a statement, President Barack Obama said he was “deeply saddened” by the attack, adding, “At this difficult time, the people of Oak Creek must know that the American people have them in our thoughts and prayers, and our hearts go out to the families and friends of those who were killed and wounded.”
Obama’s challenger, Mitt Romney, echoed the sentiment.
“This was a senseless act of violence and a tragedy that should never befall any house of worship,” Romney said. “We join Americans everywhere in mourning those who lost their lives and in prayer for healing in the difficult days ahead.”
FBI Special Agent in Charge Theresa Carlson said that the bureau was in the early stages of its investigation.
“We know our community has been deeply impacted by this incident, and our thoughts are with those affected and particularly with the officer who was wounded in the line of duty to protect others,” Carlson said.
Why Page specifically targeted Sikh worshipers was unknown. Sikhs have been targeted with hate crimes before, often by people who confuse them with Muslims, who themselves have faced hatred in the years since the September 11 attacks. More information may be coming soon, as police raided Page’s home in Cudahy, Wisconsin on Sunday afternoon.
Police have stated that they believe Page acted alone, but they were seeking a person of interest in the case who, like Page, had a 9/11 tattoo. The white male was photographed taking pictures in the aftermath of the shooting.
The Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund issued a statement condemning attacks on any religion.
“Houses of worship, like the gurdwara, are places of peace. Attacks at any of the nation’s houses of worship must be condemned by all Americans. This type of crime strikes at the very foundation of religious tolerance, the principle upon which this country was built.,” they said. “We thank our friends and neighbors from across the country for the outpouring of support and condolences as we come together to recover from the attack.”
The shooting was the second mass shooting in just over two weeks. On July 20, a gunman killed 12 people at a Colorado movie theater.
Image Credit: Sikh Temple of Wisconsin
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