Kanwardeep Singh Kaleka, right, hugs an unidentified woman while his sister Simran Kaleka, left, hugs another unidentified relative Monday as they meet and mourn the loss of their uncle Satwant Singh Kaleka, president of the Sikh temple, who died in Sunday’s temple shootings in Oak Creek, Wisc. (Rick Wood/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
OAK CREEK, Wis. — The shooter who opened fire before worship services Sunday at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek and killed six people before he was killed by police is Wade Michael Page, a 40-year-old Army veteran, U.S. Attorney James A. Santelle said Monday.
He said officials believe he purchased the 9mm handgun legally in Wisconsin.
Page, 40, served in the military approximately between 1992 and 1998, Santelle said. Other sources familiar with the investigation said Page was assigned to psychological operations, or PsyOps. He apparently was last stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C.
As members of the Sikh community in Milwaukee and worldwide mourned the dead, details of Page’s background — his time in Colorado and North Carolina before his recent arrival at a duplex in Cudahy, Wis. — began to emerge, including ties to white supremacist groups.
A statement Monday afternoon from Page’s family, texted to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter, said the family was “devastated by the horrific events” and asked for privacy.
At a 10 a.m. news briefing in Oak Creek, officials identified the Oak Creek police officer who was shot when he responded to the temple as Lt. Brian Murphy, 51, an experienced member of the department’s tactical unit. Murphy was a finalist for the Oak Creek police chief post in 2010 and has 21 years with the department
Satwant Singh Kaleka, 65, the temple president, was killed Sunday after attempting to tackle the gunman.
Oak Creek police identified the other victims Monday as Sita Singh, 41; Ranjit Singh, 49; Prakash Singh, 39; Paramjit Kaur, 41; and Suveg Singh, 84.
Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards said during the news conference that Murphy was the first officer on the scene and came upon a victim in the temple parking lot. As Murphy was going to assist the victim, who is among the dead, he was ambushed by the gunman. Murphy was shot eight to nine times at “very close range” with a handgun, one of the shots striking his neck area, Edwards said.
Other officers arriving on the scene heard shots but did not know Murphy had been wounded, Edwards said. They saw the gunman, ordered him to drop his weapon and put his hands up, but he did not, Edwards said.
The gunman fired at officers and the bullets struck squad cars. At that point, an officer with a rifle shot and killed the suspect, Edwards said. He did not identify that officer, saying that a separate investigation was being conducted as a result of the officer-involved shooting. The Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office and the Milwaukee Police Department are working on that investigation.
Jim Palmer, executive director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association, confirmed Monday that the officer who killed the shooter is Sam Lenda, a 32-year veteran police officer. Lenda has also taught at Milwaukee Area Technical College, according to the college’s website.
“Officer Lenda does not consider himself a hero and has said as much,” said Palmer, whose union has talked with Lenda. “I think he fits the definition to a T.”
Murphy is in critical condition but is expected to survive, Edwards said.
In a statement issued through Froedtert Hospital, Murphy’s family said: “We are grateful to so many who addressed Brian’s needs at the scene and continue to do so at the hospital. We ask that you respect our family’s privacy during this very difficult time. We are not alone in coping with yesterday’s tragedy. As we stand by Brian and pray for his recovery, we extend condolences to the family of those who lost their lives in this tragic incident. Our thoughts also go out to the entire Sikh community.”
In addition to Murphy, three others who were at the temple were injured. Two are at Froedtert in critical condition.
The third was treated and released, Edwards said.
In remarks before Edwards spoke, Mayor Steve Scaffidi said there is “no doubt in my mind the heroic actions of our police officers prevented a greater tragedy.”
“The terrible event that we witnessed yesterday should not be a part of America,” Santelle said at the news conference. “We are profoundly saddened by the events of yesterday and the work that has been done by this law enforcement community is a reflection of and is animated principally by our profound respect and our great sorrow about the losses the Sikh community has suffered in the past 24 hours. Our hearts are deep, our sadness is profound and we share with you great tears.”
At the 10 a.m. news conference, authorities said they were attempting to identify another person, a white male, who they described as “a person of interest.” But as of 2:45 p.m., FBI officials said they had identified the man and ruled him out as having anything to do with the temple incident.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a group that has studied hate crimes for decades, reported Monday that Page was a frustrated neo-Nazi who had been the leader of a racist white-power band known as End Apathy.
Heidi Beirich, director of the center’s intelligence project, said her group had been tracking Page since 2000, when he tried to purchase goods from the National Alliance, a well-known hate group.
The National Alliance was led by William Pierce, who was the author of “The Turner Diaries.” The book depicts a violent revolution in the United States leading to an overthrow of the federal government and, ultimately, a race war.
Parts of the book were found in Timothy McVeigh’s getaway car after the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995.
Beirich said there was “no question” Page was an ardent follower and believer in the white supremacist movement.
She said her center had evidence that he attended “hate events” around the country.
“He was involved in the scene,” she said.
Pierce is dead, and Beirich said the National Alliance is no longer considered to be an influential group.
Also on Monday, a volunteer human-rights group called Responsible for Equality And Liberty found links between Page, his band and a white supremacist website called Stormfront.
Jeffrey Imm, who heads R.E.A.L., said in an interview Monday that someone based in Milwaukee using the name “End Apathy” began posting on the website in February 2008.
Additionally, appearances by Page’s band were promoted on the Stormfront site, including a white supremacist gathering in March 2012 in Richmond, Va.
Santelle, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, said he believed Page left the Army under a general discharge, but wasn’t sure what that indicated about his service.
Officials at the Army’s national records center in St. Louis said the FBI took Page’s military records Sunday night.
Page has ties to Colorado and North Carolina, Santelle said, but investigators are not certain what brought him to the Milwaukee area.
It’s unclear how long he was in Wisconsin before he began renting a duplex in the 3700 block of E. Holmes Ave. in Cudahy starting in July.
Santelle said he didn’t believe Page had a criminal record. He added that investigators are still tracing the history of the 9mm handgun Page used. But Santelle said he thought it had been purchased legally in Wisconsin.
The gun used in the temple shooting has been traced by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said Tom Ahern, spokesman for the agency.
Under an urgent trace request, the ATF has determined the original buyer of the weapon. Ahern said it is up to Oak Creek police to release information on the gun purchase.
At the news conference, ATF Special Agent in Charge Bernard Zapor said of the gun, “We know of its origin. We know where it came from,” and “how it ended up in the hands of this killer.”