Oak Creek: US investigators were hunting for answers on Monday after a former soldier attacked at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin and killed six people before he was shot dead by police.
Officials identified the slain suspect as Wade Michael Page, a 40-year-old white male formerly attached to the US Army base in Fort Bragg, North Carolina as a “psychological operations specialist.”
Page served between April 1992 and October 1998, and was a qualified parachutist who received two good conduct awards and a National Defence Service Medal but never won significant promotion.
FBI agents and local police were investigating Page’s supposed address in Cudahy, a suburb of Milwaukee just four kilometres north of the suburban Sikh temple that was targeted in Sunday’s attack.
An AFP reporter in Cudahy saw heavily armed officers mounted in the basket on the ladder of a fire truck observing a house from above, while more police cordoned off the neighbourhood as a precaution.
Police have said they are investigating the shootings as a “domestic terrorism type incident” but have not spoken publicly about the shooter’s motives, amid reports that he had white supremacist tattoos.
“While the FBI is investigating whether this matter might be an act of domestic terrorism, no motive has been determined at this time,” Special Agent in Charge Teresa Carlson said in a statement.
Three men, including a member of a police unit called to the scene on Sunday, were reported to be in critical condition with gunshot wounds.
The killings were condemned by US President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who said he was “deeply shocked and saddened.”
The attack was the second massacre to shock the United States in under three weeks and will doubtless boost pressure on Obama and his rival Mitt Romney to address gun control before the November 6 presidential election.
Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards told reporters that officers had responded to a 911 call and raced to the temple, where one of them was “ambushed” and shot several times before a colleague took down the gunman.
The suspect died, as did six others he had shot in and near the temple. Three men, including the wounded officer, were taken to a Milwaukee hospital, where a medic said they were in “critical condition.”
Witnesses described a bloody scene of confusion and terror as the gunman strode into the temple and opened fire as people gathered for Sunday services.
Japal Singh, 29, spoke to several fellow parishioners about what happened and said that while people were still confused, some things were now clear.
A man who dropped his father off at the temple, known to Sikhs as a “gurudwara,” said he saw the shooter — described as a tall white man with a bald head — kill two people in the parking lot.
“Then he went down inside the temple and went into the room where the holy scripture is kept and basically shot more people there,” said Singh, a combat medic in the US Army reserve.
Dozens of members of the Sikh community descended on the temple after reports of the shooting and were held back behind a police cordon, anxiously scanning their cell phones for news of friends and relatives in the temple.
“Our priest, he’s dead. One of my friends’ grandfathers, he’s dead. It’s a very close-knit community. No matter who’s hurt, we’re all family,” Harinder Kaur, a 22-year-old student, told AFP.