Officials: Suspect In Sikh Temple Shooting Led White Supremacist Bands

Wade Michael Page
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The man accused of opening fire at a Sikh temple in suburban Milwaukee was a less-than-honorably discharged Army veteran who may have been a white supremacist, according to officials Monday.

Wade Michael Page was shot and killed by police Sunday after police say he killed six members of the temple's congregation and seriously injured three, including an officer.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Page started white supremacist bands Definite Hate and End Apathy in 2005 after leaving Colorado. He's been described as a frustrated neo-Nazi.

Sister station KCNC says while in Colorado, Page lived in Denver and surrounding suburbs Centennial, Englewood and Littleton.

Court records indicate he had a DUI charge in the Denver area and another incident in El Paso County.

According to records, Page had a blood alcohol more than 1 1/2 times over the legal limit when he hit a sign at an apartment complex on April 27, 1999. The judge suspended a 60 day jail sentence for Page on the condition that he complete a year of alcohol treatment, 56 hours of community service and probation.

Denver district attorney's office spokeswoman Lynn Kimbrough said he only did 18 hours of service and there's no record of whether he completed treatment. An arrest warrant was issued in 2000. It was canceled in 2007 and the case was closed.

Court records obtained by 11 News also indicate that a Wade Michael Page faced charges for careless driving and driving when license under restraint in El Paso County in 2000. Those charges were dismissed.

Police have identified 40-year-old Page as the lone suspect in the shooting.

Little else is known about Page at this time. During his six years in the Army, Page was stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas and Fort Bragg, North Carolina, both times in the psychological operations unit. A Pentagon official told CNN that Page was discharged in 1998 for "patterns of misconduct."

Officers responded to the scene around 10:30 a.m. CST Sunday after receiving a 911 call that a man had opened fire at the temple, which has a congregation of 250-400. Frantic congregants hid inside closets during the rampage, texting friends outside the temple for help.

Witnesses say the gunman began firing at people in the parking lot, then moved into the temple. When the massacre was over, four people were left dead inside the temple, two outside. Police say those killed range in age from 39 to 84 years old.

The suspect began firing at the first officer to respond to the scene, shooting him eight or nine times at close range with a handgun. Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards described the attack on the 51-year-old veteran officer as an "ambush."

A second officer exchanged fire with the gunman, ultimately bringing him down. The suspected gunman's death brought the overall death total to seven.

Edwards says the officer waved off colleagues who tried to come to his aid outside the temple, telling them instead to go tend to the victims who had been shot inside.

Along with the wounded officer, two members of the congregation--both men--were taken to Froedert Hospital in Milwaukee. Hospital spokeswoman Carolyn Bellin says that one victim had gunshot wounds to the face and extremities, while another was shot in the abdomen. The third victim's injuries have not been released, and Bellin says she does not know which victim is the police officer.

All three remain in critical condition Monday.

Authorities spent several hours sweeping the building to ensure there was not a second gunman.

Sikh rights groups have reported a rise in bias attacks since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The Washington-based Sikh Coalition has reported more than 700 incidents in the U.S. since 9/11, which advocates blame on anti-Islamic sentiment. Sikhs don't practice the same religion as Muslims, but their long beards and turbans often cause them to be mistaken for Muslims, advocates say.

Investigators are considering the possibility that the shooting may have been a hate crime. According to some sources, evidence has indicated that race or ethnicity may have played a role in the violence, though no links to extremist groups have been confirmed.

In a press conference Monday, police said the gun Page allegedly used was purchased legally.