Mon August 6, 2012
What We Know About The Sikh Temple Shooting Suspect
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Let's get up to date now on the man who killed six people inside a Sikh temple in Wisconsin over the weekend.
CHIEF JOHN EDWARDS: Yesterday, at 10:25 AM we received our initial call from inside the Sikh temple that there was a problem going on and that somebody was firing inside of there.
INSKEEP: That's the Oak Creek, Wisconsin police chief John Edwards, providing some details this morning. We can confirm the alleged gunman's name is Wade Michael Page. He was 40 years old, an Army veteran, and a civil rights group, the Southern Poverty Law Center says he may have had links to white supremacist groups.
NPR's Dina Temple-Raston is covering this story, and Dina, remind us how this happened.
DINA TEMPLE-RASTON, BYLINE: Well, basically on Sunday morning, this armed man entered this temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, just outside of Milwaukee. And he just opened fire. And there were a couple of dozen people inside the temple, including women and children, who were all preparing for Sunday services, and the shooting started and everyone took cover. And some people hid in closets and they quickly started dialing 911 for the police.
The local police showed up, the gunman came out, started firing at one policeman and hit him, and then he was shot and killed by a second policeman.
There were six people who were killed and the gunman makes seven. And from what we understand, five of those killed inside the temple were men wearing turbans and there was one woman killed, and they were all shot at close range.
INSKEEP: OK, so who was Wade Michael Page?
TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, here's what we know for certain. We know that he joined the Army in 1992, was given a general discharge in 1998. A general discharge is something below an honorable discharge, and we know that he was a sergeant and had been demoted. We understand that he was ineligible for an enlistment. But we don't know exactly why all these things happened.
He was in the psychological operations unit at Fort Bragg, North Carolina and was never posted overseas. And there are some indications that he may have been, as you mentioned, a neo-Nazi of some sort. The Southern Poverty Law Center said that he'd been part of this white power music scene since about 2000 and that he had started a band called End Apathy in 2005.
But I have stress here that the FBI hasn't confirmed any of these details. So right now we just have the Southern Poverty Law Center's saying so.
INSKEEP: And let's remember also, we're trying to ultimately figure out the motivations of a man who is dead. So, we're gathering facts, we're gathering bits of information. We don't know yet exactly what they mean; we may never. And here's another example of that. Witnesses inside the temple, some of them have said that they saw a 9/11 tattoo of some kind on the man. Is that right?
TEMPLE-RASTON: Exactly. Although that tattoo, too, has been really misunderstood. I mean, people have been using that as some sort of proof of his white supremacy. And the sources I've talked to say they've got that all wrong; that 9/11 tattoos tend to be tribute tattoos, and they're often worn by members of the military, and even more often by first responders like firemen or police. Neo-Nazis, as a general matter, get swastika tattoos or hood-figure tattoos or lynching tattoos. They don't get 9/11 tattoos. It's unclear what other kind of tattoos he had, but the only one we know that witnesses talked about was this 9/11 one.
INSKEEP: So, some more information is known about Wade Michael Page, the late Wade Michael Page here. It's been described by local police as something like domestic terrorism. What's the significance of that phrase, and does everyone agree that it fits here?
TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, it's a little bit misunderstood as well. I mean, local police asked the FBI to take the lead in the case. And that often happens when there's more than one state involved in an investigation. And the FBI also has a lot more resources than the local police. The domestic terrorism unit at the FBI's taking the lead. So that's why they're talking about this as a domestic terrorism-type case. It made more sense to have them take the lead than for example the mortgage fraud unit.
So we shouldn't read too much into yet; they're still investigating.
INSKEEP: Dina, thanks, as always.
TEMPLE-RASTON: You're welcome.
INSKEEP: That's NPR's counterterrorism correspondent Dina Temple-Raston, with the latest on the weekend shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. We'll bring you more as we learn it on MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.