By Jana Winter
CUDAHY, Wis. – The man authorities say killed six in a Milwaukee-area Sikh temple before police shot him was a heavily-tattooed, 40-year-old ex-Army soldier, sources told Fox News, but what triggered his rampage remains unclear.
Sources identified the dead suspect as Wade Michael Page, who was at one time attached to the Fort Bragg Army installation in North Carolina. Local authorities have scheduled a 10 a.m. press conference, where more details may emerge about Page and what the FBI is treating as an act of domestic terrorism in the temple, in the Milwaukee suburb of Oak Creek. Six people were killed and four wounded, including a police officer, before the man being identified as Page was shot dead by a police officer.
Satwant Kaleka, president of the temple, was one of those shot. Sources told Fox News he attempted to tackle the suspect as he sprayed gunfire inside the temple.
Late Sunday, the investigation appeared to move beyond the temple as police, federal agents and the county sheriff’s bomb squad swarmed a neighborhood in nearby Cudahy. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent Tom Ahern said warrants were being served at the home of the shooter.
Prior to starting the search at the 3700 block of Holmes Ave., police asked two blocks of residents to leave the area or remain indoors. FBI agents are there with an armored truck, a trailer and other vehicles. Other law enforcement officers are there too, along with a police dog.
The shooting left the local Sikh community devastated. Sikhism, a monotheistic faith founded in South Asia more than 500 years ago, has roughly 27 million followers worldwide. Most are in India, though there are an estimated 500,000 in the U.S. Many Sikhs in the U.S. worship on Sundays at a temple, or gurdwara, and a typical service consists of meditation and singing in a prayer room where worshippers remove their shoes and sit on the floor. Worshippers gather afterward for a meal that is open to the entire community.
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. Sikh rights groups have reported a rise in bias attacks since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The Washington-based Sikh Coalition has reported more than 700 incidents in the U.S. since 9/11, which advocates blame on anti-Islamic sentiment. Sikhs are not Muslims, but their long beards and turbans often cause them to be mistaken for Muslims, advocates say.
A woman who says she was a neighbor of the suspect tells FoxNews.com that last week she heard yelling coming from the apartment she believes is the same one the FBI is now searching.
The neighbor says, as she understood it, the suspect had lived in the apartment with his girlfriend until their recent break-up. The suspect had then moved into another apartment nearby two weeks ago. She says he had returned to the old apartment and was banging on the door of his old apartment, demanding to be let in. The neighbor also said she believed the suspect had a 9-11 tattoo.
Another local resident Kurt Weins told the Journal Sentinel he rented out the upper flat of the duplex to a man in his 40s.
“I had him checked out and he definitely checked out,” Weins told the newspaper. “The cops told me they don’t want me to say nothing right now.”
No details on the suspect have yet been confirmed by authorities, but a press conference with updates is expected for Monday.
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Police were called Sunday morning to respond to the shooting at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in the suburb of Oak Creek, when witnesses said several dozen people were gathering for a service.
Sunny Singh, 21, of Milwaukee, said a friend pulled into the temple’s parking lot, heard shots and saw two people fall down. The friend then saw the shooter reload his weapons and head to the temple’s entrance, Singh said.
Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards said the shooting suspect ambushed and opened fire on an 20-year veteran officer who was attending to a victim at the scene. Another officer then shot and killed the suspect.
Greenfield Police Chief Bradley Wentlandt said the officer who was ambushed was shot multiple times and is being treated in surgery, but is expected to recover.
Four people were found dead inside the temple, Wentlandt said, while three, including the suspected shooter, were found dead outside. Tactical units went through the temple and authorities do not believe a second shooter was involved, Wentlandt said.
Three other shooting victims, all men, were taken in critical condition to Froederdt Hospital in Milwaukee, the main trauma center for the area, Chief Medical Officer Lee Biblo said. He added that they were all being treated for bullet wounds: one to the chest, one to the extremities and the face and one to the neck.
Police released few details about other victims, but family members talked about discussions with some of those inside.
Sukhwindar Nagra, of Racine, said he called his brother-in-law’s phone and a priest at the temple answered and told him that his brother-in-law had been shot, along with three priests.
Gurpreet Kaur, 24, of Oak Creek, said her mother and a group of about 14 other women were preparing a meal in the temple kitchen when the gunman entered and started firing. Kaur said her mother felt two bullets fly by her as the group fled to the pantry. Her mother suffered what Kaur thought was shrapnel wound in her foot.
A White House official said President Obama was notified of the shooting and is continuing to receive updates.
“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,” Obama said in a statement.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker also canceled a Monday event in Green Bay after hearing about the shooting.
“Our hearts go out to the victims and their families, as we all struggle to comprehend the evil that begets this terrible violence,” he said in a statement. “At the same time, we are filled with gratitude for our first responders, who show bravery and selflessness as they put aside their own safety to protect our neighbors and friends.”
County Alderman Dan Jakupczyk told Fox News that the people at the temple have been “good citizens.”
“Since I’ve been alderman, for about three years, there has never been any trouble, or any problems,” he said.
One of the temple’s committee members, Ven Boba Ri, told the Journal Sentinel that the shooting was very sad, and he has been fielding calls all morning from around the world, including India.
“Sikhism is such a peaceful religion. We have suffered for generations, in India and even here.”
The NYPD also announced, out of caution, a heightened police presence at Sikh temples in New York City.
Fox News’ Mike Levine and the Associated Press contributed to this report.