Friday, April 20, 2018

Gunman in Sikh temple attack was white supremacist

OAK CREEK, Wis. — Before he strode into a Sikh temple with a 9 mm handgun and multiple magazines of ammunition, Wade Michael Page played in white supremacist heavy metal bands with names such as Definite Hate and End Apathy.

The bald, heavily tattooed bassist was a 40-year-old Army veteran who trained in psychological warfare before he was demoted and discharged more than a decade ago.

A day after he killed six worshipers at the suburban Milwaukee temple, fragments of Page's life emerged in public records and interviews. But his motive was still largely a mystery.

Oak Creek police Chief John Edwards suggested Monday that investigators might never know for sure why the lone attacker targeted a temple full of strangers.

"We have a lot of information to decipher, to put it all together, before we can positively tell you what that motive is — if we can determine that," Edwards said.

Page, who was shot to death by police, joined the Army in 1992 and was discharged in 1998. He was described Monday by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a "frustrated neo-Nazi" active in the obscure underworld of white supremacist music.

Page wrote frequently on white supremacist websites, describing himself as a member of the "Hammerskins Nation," a skinhead group rooted in Texas that has offshoots in Australia and Canada, according to the SITE Monitoring Service, a Maryland-based private intelligence firm that searches the Internet for terrorist and other extremist activity.

In online forums, Page promoted his music while interacting with other skinheads. He posted 250 messages on one site between March 2010 and the middle of this year. In November, Page challenged a poster who indicated he would leave the United States if Herman Cain were elected president, writing in reply, "Stand and fight, don't run."

Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the law center, a nonprofit civil rights organization in Montgomery, Ala., said Page played in bands whose often sinister-sounding names seemed to "reflect what he went out and actually did." The songs' lyrics mentioned genocide against Jews and other minorities.

Page joined the military in Milwaukee in 1992 and was a repairman for the Hawk missile system before switching jobs to become one of the Army's psychological operations specialists assigned to a battalion at Fort Bragg, N.C.

He was demoted in June 1998 for getting drunk while on duty and going AWOL, two defense officials told the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.

The FBI is leading the investigation because the shooting is considered domestic terrorism. The agency said it had no reason to believe anyone other than Page was involved.

Page entered the temple as several dozen people prepared for Sunday services. He opened fire without saying a word.

The first officer to respond was shot eight or nine times as he tended to a victim outside the temple. A second officer then exchanged gunfire with the suspect, who was fatally shot.

The six dead ranged in age from 39 to 84 years old. Three people were critically wounded, including the police officer.

The president of the temple died defending the house of worship he founded. Satwant Singh Kaleka, 65, managed to find a butter knife in the temple and tried to stab the gunman before being shot twice, his son said Monday.

Federal officials said the gun used in the attack had been legally purchased.

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