FBI investigating ties between gunman and supremacist groups
By KIM JANSSEN Staff Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org August 6, 2012 8:04AM
Updated: August 7, 2012 9:07AM
OAK CREEK, Wis. — A gunman who killed six worshippers at a Sikh temple in a Milwaukee suburb Sunday is an Army veteran with psychological operations experience and alleged ties to white supremacist groups.
Delivery driver Wade Michael Page’s name may even have appeared in prior FBI reports, according to FBI Special Agent Teresa Carlson, but Page was not the target of any investigation until Sunday, and there was no indication he was capable of the second mass shooting to leave the nation reeling within a month.
Page, 40, would almost certainly have killed more victims at the Oak Creek temple if police had not fatally shot him within 10 minutes of being alerted to his deadly rampage, officials said Monday. They praised the heroism of the responding officers and continued to describe the murders as possible domestic terrorism.
Three survivors — including the first police officer to arrive at the scene, Lt. Brian Murphy, 51 — remained in critical condition Monday evening. A fourth was treated for an injury and released.
Murphy was shot eight or nine times at close range, but he waved off officers who came to his aid and told them to “go into the temple and assist those in there,” Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards said, describing the 21-year veteran’s brave actions as “not a surprise.”
Using a 9mm handgun and multiple magazines of ammunition that Page had purchased legally, the man walked into the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin and started shooting around 10:25 a.m., killing two worshippers outside and four inside as dozens more hid in terror, police said. When Murphy arrived and saw a victim in the parking lot, Page ambushed him, shooting him with a handgun at close range, including once in the neck, Edwards said.
Other officers arrived on the scene, saw Page in the parking lot and ordered him to stop and drop his weapon, Edwards added. Page fired on two police cars, and one officer, later identified as 32-year veteran Sam Lenda, returned fire, hitting Page, who died in the parking lot, authorities said.
“In my mind, they’re all heroes,” Edwards said of the officers at the scene.
As Sikhs in Milwaukee and around the world mourned the dead — identified Monday as temple president Satwant Singh Kaleka, 62; Suveg Singh Khattra, 84; Paramjit Kaur, 41; Prakash Singh, 39; Ranjit Singh, 49, and Sita Singh, 41 — a picture of their bald-headed, goatee-wearing alleged killer began to emerge.
Page, who most recently lived in the Milwaukee suburb of Cudahy, joined the Army in 1992 and was discharged in 1998 and would not have been allowed to re-enlist, authorities said.
He was a “frustrated neo-Nazi” who led a racist white supremacist band, the Southern Poverty Law Center said Monday. Page told a white supremacist website in an interview in 2010 that he had been part of the white-power music scene since 2000 when he left his native Colorado and started the band, End Apathy, in 2005, the nonprofit civil rights organization said.
He told the website his “inspiration was based on frustration that we have the potential to accomplish so much more as individuals and a society in whole,” according to the SPLC. He did not mention violence in the website interview.
Page joined the military in Milwaukee in 1992 and was a repairman for the Hawk missile system before switching jobs to become one of the Army’s psychological operations specialists, according to a defense official.
So-called “Psy-Ops” specialists are responsible for the analysis, development and distribution of intelligence used for information and psychological effect; they research and analyze methods of influencing foreign populations.
Fort Bragg, N.C., was among the bases where Page served.
Page’s former landlord, Joseph Rackley of Nashville, N.C., said Page lived with his son for about six months last year in a house on Rackley’s three acres of property. Wade was bald and had tattoos all over his arms, Rackley said, but he doesn’t remember what they depicted. He said he wasn’t aware of any ties Page may have had to white supremacists.
“I’m not a nosy kind of guy,” Rackley said. “When he stayed with my son, I don’t even know if Wade played music. But my son plays alternative music and periodically I’d have to call them because I could hear more than I wanted to hear.”
Rackley said Page was always decent and respectful to him. “To me, he was a decent kid,” he said.
A more recent neighbor, David Brown, 62, lived in the same South Milwaukee apartment building as Page, until Page, his girlfriend, Misty, and her 5-year-old autistic son moved out earlier this year.
He described Page as a loner who lifted weights in the building’s basement and blasted loud rock music late at night.
Though Brown is a proud Navy vet who wears a Navy ball cap, Page never shared his military background with him, Brown said.
“He didn’t speak a whole lot — he seemed angry at the world,” Brown said. “I never saw him with a gun, or I’d have told the landlord and the police.”
The FBI said early Monday that it was looking for a second “person of interest” who showed up at the scene after the shootings, but later ruled out that man’s involvement, saying it believes Page acted alone.
Officials referred to a number of hate crimes in which Sikhs have been mistaken for Muslims since 9/11 and stressed the valuable part that Sikhs play in Oak Creek and communities across the U.S. Still, they said Page’s motive was under investigation.
For relatives and fellow Sikhs seeking reassurance from authorities in Oak Creek, there was little doubt the shootings were motivated by racial hatred.
The son of one of the victims said his father was a humble man who moved to Wisconsin in 2004.
Taxi driver Balginder Khattra, of Oak Creek, said Monday his 84-year-old father, Suveg Singh Khattra, didn’t speak English but managed to communicate with neighbors using his hands. Khattra says his father harbored no hatred for anyone, loved living in America and attended the temple every day. He says both he and his father were born in Patiala, a city in southeastern Punjab in northern India, where they farmed.
And Kanwardeep Singh Kaleka, the nephew of the slain temple president Kaleka tearfully recalled his uncle’s “goofy” sense of humor — the way he’d sing in a heavy Indian accent about his plans for the day.
More than anyone, his uncle was responsible for getting the temple built, he said.
“All of those who died were the most gentle, pure people you could ever meet,” he added. “I can’t understand the mind of someone who would do that to them.”
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker ordered that flags be lowered to half-staff in remembrance of those killed.
Flags are ordered to be lowered until sunset Monday and the day of each victim’s funeral.
On Monday night at the Wheaton Sikh center, the interfaith community unleashed an outpouring of love and support as Sikhs mourned.
“God’s love calls us together,” said the Rev. Linda Tossey of Community Baptist Church in Warrenville. “It does not matter what religious denomination brought us here, or that we haven’t quite figured out our theology. What matters is that we have come as Americans, as people who care, that we have all come as children of the same God.”
Following Monday’s service, hundreds of Sikhs and their supporters gathered outside for a candlelight vigil.
“It was really, really sad,” said Jashanpreet Kaur, a member of the Wheaton temple who worshipped at the Oak Creek temple when she was a college student in Wisconsin. “The man who makes the food there used to pack food for me, like home. It was a second house for people. I keep crying.”
Contributing: Jenette Sturges and AP