OAK CREEK, Wis. — The gunman who killed six people at a Sikh temple south of Milwaukee on Sunday and critically wounded three others, including a police officer, was identified Monday as Wade Michael Page, a 40-year-old Army veteran with reported links to the white supremacist movement.

Page was shot and killed by a police officer outside the temple after he opened fire at Sikh worshipers and at police responding to the scene, Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards said at a news conference.

Edwards said Page, who lived in a neighboring community, served in the military from 1992 to 1998, received a “general discharge” and was “ineligible for re-enlistment.” A Pentagon official said Page rose to the rank of sergeant before being demoted to specialist and leaving the Army. News agencies reported that Page, who was never posted overseas during his six years of service, was discharged for being drunk on duty and other unspecified misconduct.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organization that monitors hate groups, Page was a “frustrated neo-Nazi who had been the leader of a racist white-power band.” He had been “part of the white power music scene since 2000,” when he left his native Colorado on a motorcycle, attended white power concerts in several states and played in a variety of “hate rock bands,” the center said, citing a 2010 interview Page gave to a white supremacist Web site about his latest skinhead band, End Apathy.

Edwards said Page shot the first police officer to arrive on the scene eight or nine times at close range with a handgun after the officer went to render aid to a victim of the shooting he found in the temple’s parking lot. The shooter also fired at two police cars and disobeyed commands to drop his weapon before an officer fatally shot him with a squad rifle, the police chief said.

He identified the wounded officer as Lt. Brian Murphy, 51, a 21-year veteran of the department. Murphy is in critical condition, Edwards said.

At the White House, President Obama was asked after a bill-signing ceremony whether he would pursue gun-control measures in the wake of the temple attack.

He said he would “examine additional ways to reduce violence” but stopped short of calling for new gun-control laws.

Referring to reports that the gunman may have been motivated by racial hatred, Obama said: “Regardless of what we look like, where we come from, or where we worship, we’re all one people.”

Because Sikh men typically wear turbans, they are sometimes mistaken for Muslims or Arabs.

Police said five Sikh men and one woman ranging in age from 39 to 84 were killed in the shooting rampage. Three other Sikhs were injured, and two are in critical condition, Edwards said. One was treated for an unspecified injury and released, he said.

Page “was the only shooter that was involved at the temple,” Edwards told reporters.

However, authorities also released a photo of an unnamed man, saying he was a “person of interest” whom they wanted to identify and question in connection with the shooting.

Earlier, Edwards said police were investigating reports that the shooter, who was white, may have harbored extreme racial views.

The Southern Poverty Law Center published on its Web site a photo of a man it said was Page, with a symbol commonly used by white supremacists and neo-Nazis tattooed on his left shoulder.

A Defense Department official said Page trained at Fort Sill, Okla., and served at Fort Bliss in Texas and Fort Bragg in North Carolina. Page worked as a repair technician for the Hawk missile system and later was detailed to Psychological Operations as a specialist, the official said.

Sunday’s mass shooting shocked the close-knit Sikh community and horrified Americans of all backgrounds, coming just two weeks after a deadly movie-theater rampage in Aurora, Colo., in which a gunman killed 12 people and injured 58. James Holmes, 24, has been charged in that massacre.

Volunteers had gathered early at the the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, as they do every Sunday, to prepare Indian comfort food to nourish the faithful: lentils, yogurt, and rice pudding. It’s a ritual of inclusion that, according to those who return over and over, helps make Sunday prayers feel like a large family reunion.

“You feel like this is the safest place around,” said Kirandip Jawanda, 21, a data specialist at a local hospital.

But on this Sunday, terrified cooks and other early arrivers were forced into hiding after shots and screams broke their morning peace. Police said the gunman entered the temple and sprayed automatic-weapon fire, killing four people inside the building and two more outside.

In the news conference Monday, Edwards, the police chief, said the first 911 call about the shooting was received from inside the temple at 10:25 a.m. Sunday and that officers responded “within minutes.”

He said Murphy, the first officer on the scene, “came upon a victim in the parking lot” and went to help the person. “He was met by the suspect, who basically ambushed him around his vehicle” and opened fire with a handgun while the officer was tending to the victim, Edwards said.

He said other officers arriving on the scene were initially unaware that one of their own had been shot. After fatally shooting Page, police found Murphy, who “waved them off” as they approached him and told them to go into the temple to assist the victims there, Edwards said.

He said it then took a long time to clear the scene because police initially did not know whether any other shooters were inside.

Police said a 41-year-old woman, Paramjit Kaur, was among those killed in the temple shooting. The other fatalities, all men, were identified as Sita Singh, 41; Ranjit Singh, 49; Satwant Singh Kaleka, 62; Prakash Singh, 39; and Suveg Singh Khattra, 84. Singh is a common surname for men in the Sikh religion.

Local police said Page had no criminal record, and the FBI said it was not aware of any past threats against the temple.

Bernard Zapor, special agent in charge for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said the weapon used in the shooting was a 9mm handgun purchased legally.

Federal and state agents are examining Page’s background, including whether he had posted anything on the Internet, law enforcement officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation is unfolding. A semiautomatic pistol was recovered at the scene, officials said. Federal officials searched a home in nearby Cudahy, Wis., where the shooter may have lived.

The FBI is leading the investigation, with help from the ATF and local police. Edwards said the shootings are being “treated as a domestic terrorist-type incident.” But law enforcement officials said it was too early to tell what happened and why.

“Right now, it’s just a mass shooting,” said a federal official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not an authorized spokesman. “What you have is somebody who went into a Sikh temple and opened fire. Who knows what his motivation was?”

The Oak Creek temple was established in 1997 with 20 to 25 families. There are now 350 to 400 people in the congregation, according to the temple’s website.

 


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