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Sikh temple president tried to stop gunman

Aug. 7, 2012 at 2:40 PM   |   Comments

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OAK CREEK, Wis., Aug. 7 (UPI) -- The president of the Sikh temple in Wisconsin where six members were killed tried to stop the gunman before he was gunned down, his son says.

Amardeep Kaleka told WTMJ, CNN affiliate in Milwaukee, that his father, Satwant Singh Kaleka, 65, used the ceremonial dagger all Sikhs carry.

"It's an amazing act of heroism, but it's also exactly who he was," Amardeep Kaleka said. "There was no way in God's green Earth that he would allow somebody to come in and do that without trying his best to stop it."

Wade Michael Page killed five members of the temple Sunday, including Kaleka, its founder, and Prakash Sita Singh, its priest, and gunned down a police officer before he was shot dead by police.

Several prayer vigils were held Monday and at least one more was scheduled for Tuesday, CNN reported.

Amardeep told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that his father, a founder of the temple in Oak Creek, believed Sikhs would have a freedom in the United States they did not enjoy in India. His father worked in a gas station when he first arrived in the United States and refused to allow emergency room workers to shave his head -- Sikhs do not cut their hair -- when he was wounded by an attacker there.

"He kept saying, 'They will accept us. You push for the American dream and the democracy we weren't allowed in India,'" Amardeep Kaleka said.

A senior U.S. law enforcement official told the Los Angeles Times that federal agents put Page under investigation because of his extreme right-wing ties but concluded they didn't have enough evidence of a crime to open an investigation. The unidentified official would not tell the newspaper which law enforcement agency had considered investigating Page, or when.

Officials believe Page, a 40-year-old U.S. Army veteran who had been assigned to psychological operations, legally purchased the 9mm handgun he used in the shooting in Wisconsin, U.S. Attorney James A. Santelle said Monday.

Psychological operations involves seeking to influence the emotions, motives, objective reasoning and behavior of foreign individuals, groups and governments, the Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms says.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Tuesday Page purchased the handgun from a gun shop in the suburban Milwaukee city of West Allis July 28 and picked it up July 30, less than a week before the shooting.

Page killed six people and wounded three others when he opened fire with the semiautomatic handgun Sunday in a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, south of Milwaukee, police said. An officer then shot him to death.

Apart from Kaleka those killed included Sita Singh, 41, the priest, Ranjit Singh, 49; Prakash Singh, 39; Paramjit Kaur, 41, and Suveg Singh, 84, Oak Creek police said.

Members of Page's family said in a text message to the Journal Sentinel Monday they were "devastated by the horrific events" and asked for privacy.

Page had been among hundreds of names monitored by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League because of his ties to the white supremacist movement and his role as the leader of a white-power band called End Apathy.

The law center called him a frustrated neo-Nazi.

He was also believed to have been a low-level member of a national white-supremacist group called the Hammerskins, the Times said.

The group, also known as the Hammerskin Nation, produces and promotes white-power rock music and is considered the most well-organized white-power skinhead group in the United States, a United Press International review indicated.

Racist skinhead bands and record labels are known by law enforcement to raise money for U.S. extremist groups, the Times said.

Authorities have said they are treating the shooting as an act of domestic terrorism.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
Sikhism in North America
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Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (L, seated) talks with members of the Sikh commumity before prayer services August 6, 2012 in Brookfield, Wisconsin. Police have identified Wade Michael Page as their suspect in the shooting. Page, a former Army veteran, was killed in a shootout with police. UPI/Frank PolichCeremonial guards of the temple lead float stand amidst tens of thousands of Sikhs joining the Vaisakhi Parade starting from Vancouver's Ross Street Temple and compound, April 16, 2005. One of the largest celebrations of it's kind in North America, Vaisakhi is the Sikh festival of harvest after winter. ( UPI Photo/Heinz Ruckemann )
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