By John Diedrich, Don Walker, Mike Johnson and Erin Richards
OAK CREEK, Wis. — The shooter who opened fire before worship services Sunday at the Sikh Temple 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 9 mm handgun legally in Wisconsin.
At a news conference at 10 a.m. CDT, authorities said there were attempting to identify another person, a white male, who they described as “a person of interest.”
A man matching the photo officials showed was seen by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporters at the scene of the temple Sunday, possibly videotaping what was going on. Anyone with information on the man is asked to call 1-800-CALL-FBI.
Page, 40, served in the military approximately between 1992 and 1998, Santelle said.
Other sources familiar with the shooting investigation said Wade was assigned to psychological operations, or PsyOps.
At the 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, 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 hand ups, 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.
Murphy is in critical condition but is expected to survive, Edwards said.
In addition to Murphy, two other men who were at the temple were injured. They also are in critical condition.
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 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 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 (R.E.A.L.) 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.
Wade 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 Cudahy starting in July.
Santelle said he didn’t believe Wade had a criminal record. He added that investigators are still tracing the history of the 9 mm handgun Wade used. But Santelle said that 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.”
But other than to say it was a 9 mm handgun and that a number of magazines were found at the scene, Zapor would not disclose anything else about the gun.
Law enforcement officials have been investigating the Cudahy duplex where Page lived. The block on E. Holmes Ave. was cordoned off for a time Sunday night as officials investigated inside, and residents were evacuated from their homes.
The officers came out of the duplex around midnight, carrying large items.
Edwards, the Oak Creek police chief, said investigators carefully searched the house because they were concerned it might be booby-trapped.
At the Monday news conference, FBI Special Agent in Charge Teresa Carlson said investigators were able to safely enter the residence. She provided no details of what they found.
She said there was no indication the suspect was capable of such violence.
Page is believed to have worked as a truck driver with Granger, Iowa-based Barr-Nunn Transportation, from about April 2006 to August 2010 while living in Fayetteville, N.C. An employee at the company said he left “involuntarily” but declined to elaborate.
The Cumberland County, N.C., Sheriff’s Department said Page was issued a gun permit in April 2008.
He was described at the time as 5-10, 210 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes. He was single and had a scar on his stomach and tattoos, including lettering on his hands, a Celtic knot on his back and fire on his leg.
The only criminal contact the department had on Page was a charge of writing a worthless check in October 1997.
In Cudahy, Amber Young, 14, said she saw the suspect walking his dog, a black Labrador, on several occasions and that Page had a 9/11 tattoo on his upper right arm. “He was walking his dog and it was right there,” she said pointing to her own upper right arm.
The tattoo said, “9/11” and “had a bunch of descriptions and stuff,” Amber Young said.
Before moving to the Cudahy address, Page lived for a time earlier this year in a South Milwaukee.
David Brown, 62, a neighbor who lived in the same South Milwaukee apartment building earlier this year, said Page was a recluse. He was “not a friendly guy,” he said. “You’d have more fun with a camel.”
“He was very quiet. You’d say hi and he’d kind of ‘uh.’ It was like he didn’t care if you were talking or not.”
Brown saw Page driving a plain white delivery truck several times. Page lived in apartment No. 5 with his girlfriend, Misty, who was going to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and who has an autistic son, and whose father helped out with child care and car maintenance.
Page liked to play music at odd hours of the night and work out in the basement with free weights.
Brown saw him there when he went to do laundry. “I never saw him carry a gun,” said Brown, a former navy officer who is retired from working in aviation electronics.
Page and his girlfriend moved out about four or five months ago.
“He didn’t seem mean. It was kind of like he was angry at the world. But I’m not a psychiatrist,” Brown said.
The mass shooting occurred sometime before 10:30 a.m. Sunday, as members of the temple prepared for a weekly worship service that was to begin at 11:30 a.m. The first 911 calls were recorded at 10:26 a.m.
Dozens of people were already at the temple when the gunman began his rampage, which some authorities are describing as a possible domestic terrorist incident.
Police arrived at the temple, 7512 S. Howell Ave., within three minutes of the initial 911 call, with a dispatcher telling officers it was a report of an altercation. But a minute later the dispatcher added that there were reports of gunshots. Shortly after, she told them that “a bald male with glasses may have shot someone.”
The gunman acted alone, police said, but the reason for the attack remained unclear. Edwards said officers knocked on 200 doors Sunday in an effort to determine that there was not more than one shooter.
What is known about the attack is that it is believed to be the most deadly U.S. attack on Sikhs, who often have been mistaken for Muslims and targeted in hate crimes.
According to a witness, the gunman first walked up to a priest who was standing outside, shot him, then entered the temple and began firing.
As the shooting erupted, women, children and men hid in the temple for more than an hour. They took refuge in restrooms and a pantry among other places.
As SWAT team members cleared the temple Sunday, authorities found four dead inside the temple and three dead outside the temple, including Page.
Survivors inside the temple were taken from the building about noon on Sunday.
Carlson, of the FBI, said it is unclear when the temple can be turned back to the Sikh community. Perhaps by Thursday, she said at the news conference.
Murphy, the officer who was shot multiple times by Page, underwent two surgeries at Froedtert Hospital in Wauwatosa on Sunday, Edwards said earlier Monday, one of them lasting for five hours. Edwards said the officer was resting comfortably at the hospital with family by his side.
Two other men were taken to Froedtert Hospital with gunshot wounds. All were in critical condition. They were identified by a temple leader as Sanehok Singh and Punjab Singh. No additional information about them was available.
(Nicole Levy, Jackie Loohauis-Bennett, Annysa Johnson, Cary Spivak and Aisha Qidwae contributed to this report.)
©2012 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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PHOTOS (from MCT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): TEMPLE-SHOOTING
GRAPHICS (from MCT Graphics, 202-383-6064): 20120805 TEMPLE SHOOTINGS, 20120806 Sikhism, 20120806 Turbans,