An unidentified gunman killed six people at a Sikh temple insuburban Milwaukee on Sunday in a rampage that left terrified congregantshiding in closets and others texting friends outside for help. The suspect waskilled outside the temple in a shootout with police officers.
Police called the attack an act of domestic terrorism, butdid not provide any details about the gunman or suggest a possible motive,including whether he specifically targeted the Sikh temple.
"We never thought this could happen to ourcommunity," said Devendar Nagra, 48, of Mount Pleasant, whose sister escaped injuryby hiding as the gunman fired in the temple's kitchen. "We never didanything wrong to anyone."
Late Sunday, the investigation appeared to move beyond thetemple as police, federal agents and the county sheriff's bomb squad swarmed aneighborhood in nearby Cudahyand evacuated several homes. Police roped off four blocks around a duplex, butthe building's owner, Kurt Weins, said authorities would not say why they werethere or if it was related to the shooting.
Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards said police expected torelease more information Monday. He said the FBI will lead the investigationbecause the shootings are being treated as domestic terrorism, or an attackthat originated inside the U.S.
"While the FBI is investigating whether this mattermight be an act of domestic terrorism, no motive has been determined at thistime," Teresa Carlson, Special Agent in Charge with the agency's Milwaukee division, saidin a Sunday night statement.
During a chaotic few hours after the first shots were firedaround 10:30 a.m., police in tactical gear and carrying assault riflessurrounded the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin with armored vehicles and ambulances.Witnesses struggled with unrealized fears that several shooters were holdingwomen and children hostage inside.
One of the first officers to respond to frantic 911 callsseeking help was shot several times as he tended to a wounded victim, and wasin critical condition along with two other victims Sunday night, authoritiessaid.
Jatinder Mangat, 38, of Racine, said his uncle Satwant Singh Kaleka,the temple's president, was one of those shot at the temple, but he didn't knowthe extent of Kaleka's injuries. When he later learned people had died, Mangatsaid "it was like the heart just sat down."
"This shouldn't happen anywhere," he said.
Edwards said the gunman "ambushed" one of thefirst officers to arrive at the temple as the officer, a 20-year veteran withtactical experience, tended to a victim outside. A second officer thenexchanged gunfire with the suspect, who was fatally shot. Police had earliersaid the officer who was shot killed the suspected shooter.
Tactical units went through the temple and found four peopledead inside and two outside, in addition to the shooter.
The three wounded were being treated at an area traumacenter. Greenfield Police Chief Bradley Wentlandt, who assisted theinvestigation, said the police officer had surgery and is expected to survive.
Gurpreet Kaur, 24, of Oak Creek, said her mother and a group of about 14 otherwomen were preparing a meal in the temple kitchen when the gunman entered andstarted firing. Kaur said her mother felt two bullets fly by her as the groupfled to the pantry. Her mother suffered what Kaur thought was shrapnel wound inher foot.
"These are people I've grown up with," she said."They're like aunts and uncles to me. To see our community to go throughsomething like this is numbing."
Many Sikhs in the U.S. worship on Sundays at atemple, or gurdwara, and a typical service consists of meditation and singingin a prayer room where worshippers remove their shoes and sit on the floor.Worshippers gather afterward for a meal that is open to community members,regardless of their religious beliefs.
Kaur said she spent the afternoon serving as a translatorbetween law enforcement and survivors at a nearby bowling alley. Policeinvestigators kept witnesses inside the bowling alley's basement into theevening.
"We don't even know who's downstairs," Ravi P.Singh, 25, of Greenfield,said after going to the bowling alley to see if he could get more informationabout what had happened.
Sixteen-year-old LeRon Bridges, of Oak Creek, works at the bowling alley saidpolice brought people from the temple over in two armored trucks. At one point,about 50 to 60 people were at the bowling alley, including police officersquestioning witnesses and paramedics treating victims' wounds, he said.
"They were just hysterical," Bridges said."There were kids. One big load came out of the truck."
Sikhism is a monotheistic faith founded more than 500 yearsago in South Asia. It has roughly 27 millionfollowers worldwide. Observant Sikhs do not cut their hair; male followersoften cover their heads with turbans -- which are considered sacred -- andrefrain from shaving their beards. There are roughly 500,000 Sikhs in the U.S., accordingto estimates. The majority worldwide live in India.
The Sikh Temple of Wisconsin started in 1997 with about 25families who gathered in community halls in Milwaukee. Construction on the current templein Oak Creekbegan in 2006, according to the temple's website.
Sikh rights groups have reported a rise in bias attackssince the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The Washington-based Sikh Coalition hasreported more than 700 incidents in the U.S. since 9/11, which advocatesblame on anti-Islamic sentiment. Sikhs are not Muslims, but their long beardsand turbans often cause them to be mistaken for Muslims, advocates say.
Police in New York and Chicago issued statements saying they were giving Sikhtemples in those cities additional attention as a precaution after theshooting, which also came two weeks after a gunman killed 12 people at movietheater in Colorado.
Valarie Kaur, who chronicled violence against Sikh Americansin the 2006 documentary "Divided We Fall," was returning to her homein New Haven, Conn., after speaking at a White Houseconference Friday when she heard about the shootings.
Even though the gunman's motives were a mystery Sunday, Kaursaid the shootings reopened wounds in a community whose members have foundthemselves frequent targets of hate-based attacks since Sept. 11.
"We are experiencing it as a hate crime," shesaid. "Every Sikh American today is hurting, grieving and afraid."
By DINESH RAMDE and TODD RICHMOND/Associated Press
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