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Gunman Interrupts Sikh Temple Service, 7 Dead


It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep. Let's follow up, now, on the mass killing in Oak Creek, Wisconsin - a suburb just south of Milwaukee. That's where gunshots tore through a Sunday prayer service at a Sikh temple. Seven people have been confirmed dead, including the gunman. And NPR's confirmed the gunman's name this morning, his name was Wade Michael Page. He had a military background, as we're going to hear. A police officer and two more people were wounded in this shooting. Don walker has been reporting this story for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, he's on the line. Welcome to the program, sir.

DON WALKER: Thank you.

INSKEEP: So, what do you know about Mr. Page?

WALKER: Well, we're learning a little bit more, this morning, about the suspect. We understand that he came from the Chicago area, perhaps, but also had been living in North Carolina and Colorado. He came to Milwaukee - no one seems to know why - set up a place to live in a suburb called Cudahy, which is located just north of the temple - lived with his landlord for a time, then his landlord moved him across the street. That is where he lived for a time, no one seems to know exactly how long. And the FBI and other law enforcement authorities, last night, spent many hours going through his duplex.

INSKEEP: And we can add a little bit to what you're reporting, there. Our Pentagon correspondent, Tom Bowman, has been in touch with military sources who give a birth date of November 11th, 1971. He was around 40. He served in the Army in the 90s, we're told. He was a Hawk missile repairman, and then a psychological operations specialist. So, a military background, although he'd been out of the service for a good deal more than a decade, it appears.

WALKER: That's correct. And we are trying to learn a little more about the kind of weaponry he may have brought to the temple. The early reporting suggests that he was armed only with a handgun but had several magazines on his person.

INSKEEP: Is there any indication from survivors, or from evidence that has been gathered from his apartment that would point at something more of this man's motives?

WALKER: No, that's very much an unknown, right now. Although if you talk to members of the Sikh community, as we did yesterday - and people are still talking to them today - every single one of them feels strongly that this was a hate crime perpetrated on their temple.

INSKEEP: Well, let's talk about that. How large is the Sikh community in that area and what kind of a temple was this? What was the area around there like?

WALKER: Well, the area where the shooting occurred is in a busy commercial area on a very busy street. It's a beautiful building, set away, a little bit, from the street. Very large. There are two such temples in the Milwaukee area. There are approximately 3,000 Sikhs who live in this community from all walks of life. From cabbies to gas station owners, to surgeons and doctors.

INSKEEP: Are they under pressure a lot? You said that they felt that this was definitely a hate crime. Does that suggest that they feel under pressure a lot in that community?

WALKER: It's hard to tell. We've been trying to track whether there have been previous incidents. I did speak with a former police chief of the suburb where the shootings occurred yesterday. He told me there was an incident at the temple a year or so ago. But that was an internal incident, it didn't involve anything involving an outsider. So we've not been able to document any kinds of hate-related crimes or vandalisms, or the like, at these particular locations.

INSKEEP: So, very briefly, what do the police do now?

WALKER: Well, I think what the police are going to do - and federal authorities will be playing a very large role - is making a case whether this was or was not a case of domestic terrorism. I'm sure the Sikh community, as well as everyone else, would like to learn what this person's motivation was and if it was a hate crime and he intended to do so. That would be something of concern, not only to the country, but to the religious community as well.

INSKEEP: Hasn't the always - already said it was a domestic terrorism type crime, but he hasn't quite gone all the way there? Is that what you're saying?

WALKER: That's exactly right. Late last night, they did walk back, a little bit, from their initial suggestion and statement that this was an act of domestic terrorism. They were trying to clarify, late last night, that they're not dismissing it, but right now, I think they're saying that the evidence point in that location at this point.

INSKEEP: Mr. Walker, thanks for your help this morning. I appreciate it.

WALKER: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: Don Walker is a reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.