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Wisconsin Community Mourns Victims of Sikh Temple Shooting


MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin — U.S. authorities have identified the gunman who opened fire during Sunday services at a Sikh temple in suburban Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He has been identified as a former American soldier, Wade Michael Page, a 40-year-old man who served in the U.S. Army for about six years in the 1990s before being dismissed with less than an honorable discharge.

Six people died in the attack and three more were seriously injured. The incident - described by police as an act of domestic terrorism - is a shock to those in the area’s relatively small Sikh community.

As local and federal law enforcement officials combed through evidence at the temple, Milwaukee’s international community gathered in a downtown park to mourn the six people who died in the rampage and three more who remain in critical condition at area hospitals.

For temple member Manpreet Kaur, the candlelight vigil came at a time of continued uncertainty.

“The kids, they were having a class around 10 a.m. at that time. We don’t even know where all those kid[s] are," she said. "Somebody told me that there was a class and we are not sure where and what was happening.”

Kaur heard about the vigil, which was hastily organized on the social media outlet Facebook and came with her husband and daughter to seek comfort.

“I appreciate what they are doing here. It tells me that everyone is not bad," she said. "There is a community and they’re people who support and the first thing that comes into mind is the humanity, and no religion.”

“I don’t know any motive for why this took place, but if it has something to do with the way somebody looks, that’s not the America I was taught that we live in,” said ironworker Randy Bryce who joined the vigil by holding up part of a sign that spelled out “Wisconsin Weeps.” He says the incident was just as shocking to him as it was to those in the Sikh community.

The Sikh Religion

  • Monotheistic, founded in the 15th century in South Asia
  • Fifth-largest organized religion in the world, with as many as 30 million followers
  • There are more than 500,000 Sikhs in the United States
  • Observant Sikhs do not cut their hair
  • The current prime minister of India, Manmohan Singh, is a Sikh
  • Sikhs wear turbans and grow beards, and are often mistaken for Muslims in the West
  • Sikhs have been a target of anti-Muslim violence in the United States since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks
“I can’t think of possibly why somebody would walk into the that temple," Bryce said. "They were celebrating a birth today. And, it’s a place where food is served free to anyone who goes in there. Anyone is welcome. A very peace-loving people. It makes no sense.”

India-born software engineer Deepak Narayan was also trying to make sense of what happened, so soon after a shooting at a theater in Colorado that left 12 people dead, and 70 others injured.

“Milwaukee is a peaceful city, but this can happen anywhere," Narayan said. "Aurora, Colorado, was a small city, I guess, and it can happen anywhere. And, it just reminds that life is fragile and we just have to live each day to the fullest.”

As law enforcement agents continued to search for clues that could provide insight into how the tragedy unfolded, many Sikhs in southeast Wisconsin were just beginning to deal with the shock of an incident that now puts their relatively small and close-knit community in the media spotlight.

It was earlier reported that the wounded policeman killed the gunman. The police clarified later that the gunman was shot and killed by a second policeman.
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    Kane Farabaugh

    Kane Farabaugh is the Midwest Correspondent for Voice of America, where since 2008 he has established Voice of America's presence in the heartland of America.

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