The skinhead former soldier who killed six people and critically wounded three at a Sikh temple yesterday before police shot him dead could have been part of a violent race hate group, sources say.
Witnesses said a tall, bald, white man in his 40s opened fire just before services, entering the kitchen at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in suburban Milwaukee at about 10.30am as women prepared a Sunday meal.
It sent worshippers fleeing to escape the barrage – with many hiding in cupboards and texting the outside world begging for help.
He is said to have had a 9/11 tattoo, marking the September 11, 2001 attacks by Islamic militants – and has been described in some quarters as a ‘white supremacist’.
‘He had tattoos, I don’t know what the exact markings were, or if they represented any of his beliefs or what they stood for,’ said Thomas Ahern, of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The gunman ambushed and shot a police officer who was responding to a 911 call and helping a shooting victim, Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards said. A second officer shot and killed the gunman.
The wounded officer, a 20-year veteran, was taken to a hospital and is expected to survive. Hospital officials said two other victims, also in critical condition, were being treated.
Authorities did not release the name of the suspect. They said the shooter had used a 9mm semi-automatic pistol, which was recovered at the scene. Officials were tracing origin of the weapon, Ahern said.
Police surrounded and searched a grey, two-storey house in the Cudahy neighborhood, presumed to be the residence of the gunman on Sunday evening.
Generators and floodlights were set up along the middle-class block. A police source confirmed that a search warrant had been issued for the house, and a bomb squad was on the scene.
Temple member and U.S. Army Reserve combat medic Jagpal Singh, 29, said people who were at the service when the shooting broke out described to him a scene of chaos and confusion.
Worshippers scrambled to escape the gunfire, but some tragically ran in the wrong direction. Others survived the rampage by locking themselves in bathrooms, he said.
Family and friends of the victims gathered in the basement of a nearby bowling alley as they waited for their loved ones to be identified.
One victim was the temple’s president, 65-year-old Satwant Kaleka who died as he tried to ‘knife and tackle’ the shooter. Another was Parkash Singh, a priest in his thirties, and a married father-of-two.
There were reports the gunman had been in the Army. According to a woman, who said she was the mother of the shooter’s landlord, the suspect had recently broke up with his girlfriend, Patch reported.
The Sikh Coalition, the largest Sikh-American civil rights organisation, urged caution over the gunman’s motive while the police investigation was ongoing.
President Barack Obama released a statement saying he and Michelle were ‘deeply saddened’ to learn of the tragedy.
‘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,’ he said in a statement.
‘My Administration will provide whatever support is necessary to the officials who are responding to this tragic shooting and moving forward with an investigation.
‘As we mourn this loss which took place at a house of worship, we are reminded how much our country has been enriched by Sikhs, who are a part of our broader American family.’
Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney also issued a statement, calling the shootings ‘a senseless act of violence’.
Source: The Daily Mail