OAK CREEK, Wis. (AP) — The gunman who killed six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin before he was shot to death by police was identified Monday as a 40-year-old Army veteran and former leader of a white supremacist metal band.
First Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Haanstad in Milwaukee identified the shooter as Wade Michael Page. Page joined the Army in 1992 and was discharged in 1998, according to a defense official who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release information yet about the suspect.
Officials and witnesses said the gunman walked into the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in suburban Milwaukee and opened fire as several dozen people prepared for Sunday services. When the shooting ended, seven people lay dead, including Page. Three others were critically wounded in what police called an act of domestic terrorism.
Page 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.
End Apathy’s biography on the band’s MySpace page said it began in 2005 and was based in Nashville, N.C. It said their music “is a sad commentary on our sick society and the problems that prevent true progress.”
Joseph Rackley of Nashville, N.C., told the AP on Monday that 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.”
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 the 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.
Police in the temple’s hometown of Oak Creek, Wis., planned to release more information about their investigation Monday. Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards said the FBI was leading the investigation because the shootings are being treated as domestic terrorism, or an attack that originated inside the U.S.
Satpal Kaleka, wife of the temple’s president, Satwant Singh Kaleka, was in the front room and saw the gunman enter the temple, according to Harpreet Singh, their nephew.
“He did not speak, he just began shooting,” said Singh, relaying a description of the attack from Satpal Kaleka.
Kaleka said the 6-foot-tall bald white man — who worshippers said they had never before seen at the temple — seemed like he had a purpose and knew where he was going.
“We never thought this could happen to our community,” said Devendar Nagra, 48, of Mount Pleasant, whose sister escaped injury by hiding as the gunman fired in the temple’s kitchen. “We never did anything wrong to anyone.”
Late Sunday, the investigation moved beyond the temple as police, federal agents and the county sheriff’s bomb squad swarmed a neighborhood in nearby Cudahy, evacuated several homes and searched a duplex. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent Tom Ahern said warrants were being served at the gunman’s home. Residents were allowed to return to their homes Monday.
During a chaotic few hours after the first shots were fired around 10:30 a.m., police in tactical gear and carrying assault rifles surrounded the temple with armored vehicles and ambulances. Witnesses struggled with unrealized fears that several shooters were holding women and children hostage inside.
Edwards said the gunman “ambushed” one of the first officers to arrive at the temple as the officer, a 20-year veteran with tactical experience, tended to a victim outside. A second officer then exchanged gunfire with the suspect, who was fatally shot. Police had earlier said the officer who was shot killed the suspected shooter.
The wounded officer was in critical condition along with two other victims early Monday, authorities said.
Tactical units went through the temple and found four people dead inside and two outside, in addition to the shooter.
Jatinder Mangat, 38, of Racine, a nephew of the temple’s president, said when he learned that people had died, “it was like the heart just sat down.”
Balginder Khattra of Oak Creek, said Monday that his 84-year-old father, Suveg Singh Khattra, was among the six people police said were killed. Khattra says his father didn’t speak English but loved living in America.
Sikhism is a monotheistic faith founded more than 500 years ago in South Asia. It has roughly 27 million followers worldwide. Observant Sikhs do not cut their hair; male followers often cover their heads with turbans — which are considered sacred — and refrain from shaving their beards. There are roughly 500,000 Sikhs in the U.S., according to estimates. The majority worldwide live in India.
The Sikh Temple of Wisconsin started in 1997 with about 25 families who gathered in community halls in Milwaukee. Construction on the current temple in Oak Creek began in 2006, according to the temple’s website.
Sikh rights groups have reported a rise in bias attacks since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The Washington-based Sikh Coalition has reported more than 700 incidents in the U.S. since 9/11, which advocates blame on anti-Islamic sentiment. Sikhs are not Muslims, but their long beards and turbans often cause them to be mistaken for Muslims, advocates say.
The shootings also came two weeks after a gunman killed 12 people at movie theater in Colorado.
Associated Press writers Gretchen Ehlke and Scott Bauer in Milwaukee; Patrick Condon in Minneapolis; Sophia Tareen and Michelle Janaye Nealy in Chicago; Larry Neumeister in New York; and Pauline Jelinek and Eileen Sullivan in Washington contributed to this report.