Yesterday morning, a gunman entered a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wis. and opened fire on congregants, killing six and wounding three — including a police officer who is in critical condition.
Since the incident, additional details have emerged about the crime.
Here’s what we know so far…
Who was the shooter?
The suspected gunman, who was killed by police, has been identified as Wade Michael Page, a 40 year-old ex-Army officer who was once affiliated with Fort Bragg. There was not more than one gunman, as had been previously reported based upon texts messages sent from within the temple. Wade is said to have had many tattoos, including a Sept. 11-related image. Some law enforcement sources claim that Wade might be a white supremacist. And the Southern Poverty Law Center, which studies U.S. racist groups, says that Wade was in a neo-Nazi band called “End Apathy“(tagline: “a sad commentary on our sick society and the problems that prevent true progress.”) The Law Center also tells reporters that it had kept an eye on Page since 2000, when he tried to purchase products from another well-known hate group called the National Alliance. Page lived close to the temple — in a Milwaukee suburb.
What was Page’s record in the Army?
Before he left the Army, Page’s rank had been reduced from sergeant to specialist. He was in the Army from April 1992 until October 1998, and is said to have worked in the psychological operations unit. NPR notes that he got a general discharge — not an honorary discharge, suggestion that he had been “performing satisfactorily but did not meet all the expectations of service.” NPR’s Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman explains that rank reductions typically deal with soldiers’ conduct — not performance.
Do cops think the shooting is a hate crime?
The FBI is determining whether the incident constitutes an act of domestic terrorism.
Were illegal guns involved?
CNN says that a gun used in the shooting was acquired legally.
How does this impact New York’s Sikhs?
The New York Police Department said that it is dispatching additional officers to protect the Sikh community.
Are Sikhs often the victims of hate crimes?
Since 9-11, hate crimes against Sikhs have increased, as many confuse the religion’s practitioners with radical Muslims. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-New York) sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder in April, demanding that federal law enforcement authorities track hate crimes committed against sikhs, as two murders, a temple vandalization, and a brutal beating recently took place.
How have the presidential candidates reacted?
Both President Barack Obama and G.O.P. contender Mitt Romney have expressed their condolences for the victims and their families, releasing statements shortly after the shooting.
“Michelle and I were deeply saddened to learn of the shooting that tragically took so many lives in Wisconsin. 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. My Administration will provide whatever support is necessary to the officials who are responding to this tragic shooting and moving forward with an investigation. As we mourn this loss which took place at a house of worship, we are reminded how much our country has been enriched by Sikhs, who are a part of our broader American family.”
“Ann and I extend our thoughts and prayers to the victims of today’s shooting in Wisconsin. This was a senseless act of violence and a tragedy that should never befall any house of worship. Our hearts are with the victims, their families, and the entire Oak Creek Sikh community. We join Americans everywhere in mourning those who lost their lives and in prayer for healing in the difficult days ahead.”
Comptroller John Liu released a statement on the shootings, saying:
“I join with all New Yorkers in sending my thoughts and prayers to the families and friends of those who have been devastated by the attack in the Sikh community of Milwaukee this past weekend. Today, people of all faiths need to come together to show unified opposition to gun violence, especially that motivated by racial, ethnic, and religious hatred. Our thanks go to the New York City Police Department for increasing its presence in the Sikh communities around NYC to ensure their safety.”
And at a press conference today, Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters: “We have no tolerance for intolerance or for lawless violence…They go against everything that New York is all about and this remains a city where people of every nationality live in harmony, and where people of every faith worship in freedom, and that’s essential to who we are as New Yorkers.”
Follow Victoria Bekiempis @vicbekiempis.