Motive sought after 6 slain at Wis. Sikh temple

By Todd Richmond

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Aug. 6 2012 6:27 a.m. MDT

A man holds his child during a candle light vigil for the victims of the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin shooting in Milwaukee Sunday, Aug 5, 2012. An unidentified gunman killed six people at the suburban Milwaukee temple on Sunday in a rampage that left terrified congregants hiding in closets and others texting friends outside for help. The suspect was killed outside the temple in a shootout with police officers.

Jeffrey Phelps, Associated Press

OAK CREEK, Wis. — As worshippers prayed and meditated at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin on Sunday morning, about a dozen women were preparing food in the temple kitchen for a post-service meal that is open to community members, regardless of religious affiliation.

Then the shooting started, sending terrified congregants scrambling for cover.

When the gunfire finally ended in a shootout between a gunman and police outside the temple in suburban Milwaukee, seven people lay dead, including the suspect, and three others were critically wounded in what police called an act of domestic terrorism.

Satpal Kaleka, wife of the temple's president, Satwant Singh Kaleka, was in the front room and saw the gunman enter the temple, according to Harpreet Singh, their nephew.

"He did not speak, he just began shooting," said Singh, relaying a description of the attack from Satpal Kaleka.

Kaleka said the 6-foot-tall bald white man — who worshippers said they had never before seen at the temple — seemed like he had a purpose and knew where he was going.

Federal authorities described the suspect as a white man in his 40s, but neither provided further details nor suggested a possible motive, including whether he specifically targeted the Sikh temple.

"We never thought this could happen to our community," said Devendar Nagra, 48, of Mount Pleasant, whose sister escaped injury by hiding as the gunman fired in the temple's kitchen. "We never did anything wrong to anyone."

Late Sunday, the investigation appeared to move beyond the temple as police, federal agents and the county sheriff's bomb squad swarmed a neighborhood in nearby Cudahy, evacuated several homes and searched a duplex. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent Tom Ahern said warrants were being served at the gunman's home. Residents were allowed to return to their homes Monday.

Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards said police expected to release more information Monday. He said the FBI will lead the investigation because the shootings are being treated as domestic terrorism, or an attack that originated inside the U.S.

"While the FBI is investigating whether this matter might be an act of domestic terrorism, no motive has been determined at this time," Teresa Carlson, Special Agent in Charge with the agency's Milwaukee division, said in a statement Sunday night.

During a chaotic few hours after the first shots were fired around 10:30 a.m., police in tactical gear and carrying assault rifles surrounded the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin with armored vehicles and ambulances. Witnesses struggled with unrealized fears that several shooters were holding women and children hostage inside.

Edwards said the gunman "ambushed" one of the first officers to arrive at the temple as the officer, a 20-year veteran with tactical experience, tended to a victim outside. A second officer then exchanged gunfire with the suspect, who was fatally shot. Police had earlier said the officer who was shot killed the suspected shooter.

The wounded officer was in critical condition along with two other victims Sunday night, authorities said. Police said the officer was expected to survive.

Tactical units went through the temple and found four people dead inside and two outside, in addition to the shooter.

Jatinder Mangat, 38, of Racine, another nephew of the temple's president, said his uncle was among those shot, but he didn't know the extent of his injuries. When Mangat later learned people had died, he said "it was like the heart just sat down."

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