Police officials in the northern state of Wisconsin say at least seven people were killed in a shooting at a Sikh temple in a suburb of Milwaukee. A police officer responding to the shooting was wounded in an exchange with the gunman, who is among the dead.
The shooting occurred Sunday morning as dozens of worshippers gathered at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek.
Greenfield Police Chief Bradley Wentlandt says one of the first officers to respond to the incident encountered a gunman, who opened fire. “The first officer on the scene is a 20-year law enforcement veteran, an extremely accomplished tactical officer. When he arrived on the scene, he engaged an active shooter outside of the temple. Multiple rounds were exchanged. The officer was shot multiple times," he said.
Sikhism is a monotheistic religion founded more than 500 years ago in the Punjab district of what is now India and Pakistan.
There are 20 million Sikhs in the world, and Sikhism is most highly concentrated in the Punjab province of India. The New York-based United Sikhs organization says estimates place the Sikh population in the United States between 400,000 and 1 million.
The religion was founded by Guru Nanak and is based on his teachings and the teachings of the nine Sikh gurus who followed him.
Sikhism stresses truth, equality and doing good deeds rather than merely carrying out rituals.
Wentlandt says officers killed the alleged shooter and that four people were found dead inside the temple.
Friends and family members of worshippers told local media that several people, including the president of the temple, were being treated for gunshot wounds at area hospitals.
A man who said his uncle was among the wounded, told reporters that Sunday services are among the biggest weekly gatherings at the temple. "The gunman came earlier than when most people come, so I think, relatively, damages were somewhat limited. But I mean, if this had happened an hour or two later, God knows how many people would be hurt or dead," he said.
Sunday’s shooting put other Sikh temples in the area on a heightened state of alert, with local police departments guarding other temples as a precaution.
The Sikh Temple of Wisconsin’s website says about 350 to 400 people worship at the site. The Sikh community in southeastern Wisconsin is relatively small, and includes a total of about 3,000 families.
There were isolated incidents of violence against Wisconsin Sikhs in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.