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Wisconsin temple gunman was white supremacist

Army veteran played guitar in racist heavy metal bands

Wade M. Page served in the US Army for six years.

Wade M. Page served in the US Army for six years.

OAK CREEK, Wis. — The gunman in the shooting rampage that left six people dead and three wounded at a Sikh temple here was identified Monday as Wade M. Page, a 40-year-old Army veteran who had played for years in white supremacist heavy-metal bands.

Law enforcement officials said Page, who served in the Army from 1992 to 1998, trained in psychological warfare before he was demoted and discharged more than a decade ago.

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Page was shot and killed by police after the Sunday rampage at the Sikh temple in suburban Milwaukee. While details of his racist leanings have begun to emerge, investigators said they were still trying to determine why he targeted the temple.

Page wrote on white supremacist websites, describing himself as a member of the ‘‘Hammerskins Nation,’’ a Texas skinhead group with offshoots in Australia and Canada, the Associated Press reported. His writings were being monitored by the SITE Monitoring Service, a Maryland private intelligence firm that searches the Internet for terrorist and other extremist activity.

Page used online forums to interact with other skinheads and promote his music, according to SITE. ‘‘If you are wanting to meet people, get involved and become active, then you really need to attend,’’ he wrote. ‘‘Stop hiding behind the computer or making excuses.’’

Officials at the Southern Poverty Law Center said they had been tracking Page for about a decade because of his ties to the white supremacist movement. They described him as ‘‘a frustrated neo-Nazi who had been the leader of a racist white-power band.’’

They said Page played guitar and sang vocals for a band called End Apathy.

‘‘This guy was in the thick of the white supremacist music scene and, in fact, played with some of the best known racist bands in the country,’’ said Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the center. ‘‘The music that comes from these bands is incredibly violent, and it talks about murdering Jews, black people, gay people, and a whole host of others. It is music that could not be sold over the counter around the country.’’

Page told a white-power website in 2010 that he became active in supremacist music in 2000, when he left his native Colorado, and started the band End Apathy in 2005. The band’s MySpace page listed the group as based in Nashville, N.C.

Page joined the Army in 1992 and was assigned to repairing the Hawk missile system before becoming one of the Army’s psychological operations specialists assigned to a battalion at Fort Bragg, N.C.

As a ‘‘psy-ops’’ specialist, Page would have trained to host public meetings between locals and American forces, use leaflet campaigns in a conflict zone, or use loudspeakers to communicate with enemy soldiers. He never deployed overseas in that role, Army spokesman George Wright said.

Page was demoted in June 1998 for getting drunk while on duty and going AWOL, the AP reported, citing two defense officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release information about the gunman.

Page’s stepmother, Laura Page, 67, of Denver, expressed shock at the news that the boy she had known since he was 10 years old could be behind such a crime.

‘’I can’t imagine, I can’t imagine what made him do this,’’ she said.

She said Page grew up with his mother in the metropolitan Denver area until she died when he was 12 or 13. Then he went to live with an aunt and a grandmother. After high school, he enlisted in the Army.

Chief John Edwards of the Oak Creek police did not give a motive for the shooting, which is being treated as an act of domestic terrorism.

Edwards, speaking at a news conference, also identified the victims, five men and one woman, who ranged in age from 39 to 84. Three others, including a police officer, were wounded during the shooting and were in critical condition at a local hospital.

The victims were identified as Sita Singh, 41; Ranjit Singh, 49; Satwant Singh Kaleka, 65; Prakash Singh, 39; Paramjit Kaur, 41; and Suveg Singh, 84.

Kaleka was the president of the temple, and witnesses told family members that he died while tackling the gunman.

The gunman, carrying a 9mm semiautomatic handgun and with a 9/11 tattoo on his left shoulder, entered the temple at about 10:15 a.m. Sunday, police officials said, and began firing at priests gathered in the lobby. He then stalked through the temple as congregants ran for shelter and barricaded themselves in bathrooms and prayer halls.

Jatinder Mangat, 40, who was on his way to the temple when he heard reports about the shooting, said he had tried to call his uncle, the temple’s president, but reached the head priest, Gurmail Singh, instead.

‘‘He was crying,’’ Mangat said. “Everyone was screaming. He said that my uncle was shot and was lying on the floor and asked why you guys are not sending an ambulance and police.’’

Gurmail Singh, he said, had locked himself in a bathroom with four other people, including two children.

Surjit Singh Toor, 60, said his sister-in-law, Parminder Kaur Toor, 61, was one of the women in the pantry.

‘‘She keeps crying and crying,’’ he said. ‘‘She had to walk over the dead bodies. These were her friends.’’

Edwards described the first minutes after police responded to the 911 calls, which started at 10:25 a.m.

He said the first police officer on the scene was tending to a wounded person in the parking lot when the gunman stood over him and fired eight or nine shots at close range, striking him in the neck.

The officer, Lieutenant Brian Murphy, 51, was in critical condition after surgery, Edwards said. He said Murphy, a 21-year veteran of the department, waved on officers trying to assist him, telling them to go first into the temple to check on victims there.

Edwards said that when the other officers arrived on the scene, they did not know one of their officers was wounded. They spotted the gunman in the parking lot and ordered him to drop his weapon.

The man responded by firing at patrol cars, shattering the windshield of one. Edwards said the officers ‘‘returned fire, putting the individual down.’’

Material from the Associated Press was included in this report.
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