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Gunman in Sikh temple attack was white supremacist

Wade Michael Page

OAK CREEK, Wis. – The gunman who killed six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin before being shot to death by police was identified Monday as a 40-year-old Army veteran and former leader of a white supremacist heavy metal band.

Wade Michael Page strode into the temple carrying a 9 mm handgun and multiple magazines of ammunition and opened fire without saying a word, authorities said.

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 yet authorized to release the information.

When the shooting at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in suburban Milwaukee ended, six victims ranging in age from 39 to 84 years old lay dead. Three others were critically wounded.

Page was a “frustrated neo-Nazi” who led a racist white supremacist band, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the non-profit civil rights organization in Montgomery, Ala., said Page had been on the white-power music scene for more than a decade, playing in bands known as Definite Hate and End Apathy.

“The name of the band seems to reflect what he went out and actually did,” Potok said.

“There is a whole underworld of white supremacists music that is rarely seen or heard by the public,” Potok said, describing lyrics that talk about carrying out genocide against Jews and other minorities, he said.

Potok said there’s no research showing white supremacists hating Sikhs, suggesting Sunday’s attack could have been an example of someone mistaking Sikhs for another group, such as Muslims.

In a 2010 interview, Page told a white supremacist website that he became active in white-power music in 2000, when he left his native Colorado and started the band End Apathy in 2005.

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 law center. He did not mention violence.

End Apathy’s biography on the band’s MySpace page said it was based in Nashville, N.C.

Joseph Rackley of Nashville, N.C., said Monday that Page lived with his son for about six months last year in a house on Rackley’s 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 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. Fort Bragg, N.C., was among the bases where Page served.

The FBI was leading the investigation because the shootings were considered domestic terrorism, or an attack that originated inside the U.S. The agency said it had no reason to believe anyone other than Page was involved.

Page began shooting as several dozen people prepared for Sunday services.

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 bald white man – who worshippers said they had never seen before 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 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.”

Federal officials said the gun used in the attack had been legally purchased.

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. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives searched the gunman’s home. Residents were allowed to return to their homes Monday.

The first officer to respond was shot eight to nine times as the officer tended to a victim outside. A second officer then exchanged gunfire with the suspect, who was fatally shot.

The wounded officer was in critical condition Monday, along with two other people who were wounded.

Balginder Khattra of Oak Creek, said Monday that his 84-year-old father, Suveg Singh Khattra, was among the dead. 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.

The New York-based Sikh Coalition has reported more than 700 hate crimes in the U.S. since 9/11 and has fielded complaints in the thousands from Sikhs about workplace discrimination and racial profiling. With their turbans and long beards, Sikhs are often mistaken for Muslims or Arabs, and have inadvertently become targets of anti-Muslim bias in the United States.

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, along with the AP News and Information Research Center in New York.

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