OAK CREEK, Wis. (WCCO/AP) — The police chief of a Wisconsin city where a gunman opened fire at a Sikh temple says the suspect shot the first officer on the scene eight to nine times with a handgun at close range.
Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards says the suspect ambushed the veteran 51-year-old officer outside the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin on Sunday morning. The gunman was later shot to death by another officer.
The wounded officer remains hospitalized in critical condition Monday morning.
Edwards says the officer waved off colleagues who tried to come to his aid outside the temple, telling them instead to go tend to the victims who had been shot inside.
The officer is a 20-year veteran who Edwards says was a tactical team leader for years.
The seven people killed in Sunday’s shooting — including the gunman — ranged in age from 39 to 84 years old. The incident is being called an isolated hate crime that sprung from ignorance, according to a spokesperson for the religious organization.
The Sikh Society of Minnesota said they do not plan on increasing security at temples following the shooting.
“People associate the way we dress, with a turban and beard, with terrorists that were responsible for the 9-11 attacks,” said Manjeet Singh, a spokesperson for the Sikh Society of Minnesota. “We have turbans because we keep long hair for religious reasons and we wrap our hair up with a cloth. It’s not a fashion statement; it is part of our religious belief.”
Police in New York and Chicago have said security will be added at temples in those cities in response to the shootings. Singh said, even so, that will not happen at Minnesota Sikh Temples.
“We don’t feel that we are in danger. We will be vigilant, but we will not look over our shoulder,” said Singh.
A federal official says an ex-Army man, Wade Michael Page, carried out the shootings. Page also died in the incident. Officials say Page was a former leader of a white supremacist metal band.
Page joined the Army in 1992 and was discharged in 1998, according to a defense official who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release information yet about the suspect.
Fort Bragg, N.C., was among the bases where Page served.
Page was a “frustrated neo-Nazi” who led a racist white supremacist band, the Southern Poverty Law Center said Monday. Page told a white supremacist website in an interview in 2010 that he had been part of the white-power music scene since 2000 when he left his native Colorado and started the band, End Apathy, in 2005, the nonprofit civil rights organization said.
He told the website his “inspiration was based on frustration that we have the potential to accomplish so much more as individuals and a society in whole,” according to the SPLC. He did not mention violence in the website interview.
End Apathy’s biography on the band’s MySpace page said it began in 2005 and was based in Nashville, N.C. It said their music “is a sad commentary on our sick society and the problems that prevent true progress.”
Officials and witnesses said the gunman walked into the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in suburban Milwaukee and opened fire. When it was over, seven people lay dead, including Page, who was shot to death by police. Three others were critically wounded. Police called it an act of domestic terrorism.
The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office received the bodies of all seven people who died in the incident. Autopsies will be performed starting Monday.
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