Police: No evidence temple shooter left message indicating plans
By the CNN Wire Staff
OAK CREEK, Wisconsin (CNN) – As community members sought emotional healing in the wake of the shooting spree at a religious service, police said Tuesday they had not identified a motive or found any telltale writings or note left by the gunman.
Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards also said family members of Wade Michael Page, 40, have not reported observing any warning signs.
Page, an Army veteran who neighbors say played in a far-right punk band, was the lone gunman in the Sunday rampage at a Sikh temple, Edwards said.
According to Edwards and the FBI, authorities have received tips that Page might have links to the white supremacist movement, but nothing had been confirmed. [RELATED: Accused temple shooter attended white supremacist event in Chesterfield]
“We may end up with just a lot of facts on what he is involved with, who he may be associated with, but we may never know that motive, because he died, and that motive died with him,” Edwards told CNN’s “The Situation Room.”
The chief also said, counter to speculation, Page did not have a 9/11 tattoo.
While the FBI has said Page never was the subject of an investigation, he was mentioned in a small number of federal law enforcement reference files in cases going back seven years, a law enforcement official told CNN on Tuesday.
The official said there is no information to suggest that investigators wanted to open a case on Page, but did not have the evidence to justify it. While Page might have been sympathetic to a certain ideology, there was no evidence he had committed a federal crime prior to the Wisconsin shooting, the official said.
The official did not provide details about the nature of the cases in which Page’s name was mentioned.
For a third consecutive night, mourners and supporters will hold a vigil Tuesday, CNN affiliate WTMJ-TV reported, to remember the six victims, pray for the wounded and grapple with grief and shock.
Page was shot to death by police responding to the attack, the community’s chief of police told reporters.
Hundreds attended a memorial for the victims at a Sikh center in the town of Brookfield on Monday, with the line of supporters overflowing outside the temple, WTMJ reported. Other vigils were planned for Tuesday and Wednesday.
“This is one very large community,” said Deanna Singh, who attended the service. “We’re all one huge family.”
“I think it’s a sad day for all of us. It’s horrific what happened,” said Harbander Sithi.
Sunday’s attack in Oak Creek occurred 16 days after a gunman killed 12 people and wounded scores at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.
Oak Creek Mayor Stephen Scaffidi said Monday that he spoke with Aurora’s mayor to get some advice on how to cope with the tragedy.
“He gave me some pointers and some suggestions on how to not only deal with the immediate, but how we deal with the next few weeks,” Scaffidi said, pointing out that the Colorado town was in its third week of coping.
“We’re not going to let this define us; we’ll never let it define us,” Scaffidi said. “There are a lot of great people here, and we’re not going to let this get in the way.”
Worshipers at the temple in Brookfield, which is also a Milwaukee suburb, began fearing for their own safety on the morning of the shooting spree in Oak Creek, when they received calls from friends informing them of the tragedy, said one Sikh devotee.
“We really appreciate Brookfield police officers — that they did send squads, blocked the driveways, just in case,” said Parvinder Singh Sangha, before entering Brookfield’s gurdwara — Sikh temple — to participate in Monday’s remembrance.
Although the Sikh religion is not affiliated with Islam, Sikh men, who wear head coverings and let their beards grow, have been subject to Islamophobic hate crimes by perpetrators mistaking them for Muslims.
“We always feared this since 9/11, that someday this thing might happen. It did happen on a smaller level, but not on this level,” Gurcharan Singh Grewal, president of Sikh Temple in Brookfield, told CNN affiliate WITI.
The Sikh American community called for a national moment of silence on Sunday.
A posting on the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund’s website asked for observances at churches, mosques, synagogues and other places of worship. It said the community hopes such a gesture “will send the message of blessings for all, and that we stand united against hate and intolerance and as part of a common humanity.”
President Barack Obama ordered U.S. flags flown at half-staff through Friday “as a mark of respect for the victims of the senseless acts of violence.”
Bernard Zapor — the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives special agent in the investigation — said Monday that the 9mm semiautomatic handgun with multiple ammunition magazines used by the attacker had been legally purchased.
Page bought the gun on July 28 at the Shooters Shop in West Allis, Wisconsin, and picked it up two days later, according to a law enforcement official. The suspect bought ammunition there and used the shop’s range.
Shop manager Eric Grabowski and owner Kevin Nugent told CNN Tuesday that surveillance video of Page buying the gun and using it in the range two days later has been turned over to investigators. The suspect did not exhibit unusual behavior while in the store, Grabowski said.
The magazine for the handgun holds at least 17 bullets.
Sunday’s attack occurred about 10:30 a.m., when temple members were reading scriptures and cooking food in preparation for the main Sunday service and community lunch. The temple has more than 350 members.
According to witnesses, the gunman started shooting in the parking lot, killing at least one person. He then entered the temple and continued firing, they said.
Two neighbors of Page identified him in photos that showed him playing in the far-right punk band “End Apathy” with Nazi flags hanging near him. The nephew of the slain president of the Sikh temple said the attacker had a 9/11 tattoo on his arm, though later police reports contradicted this.
According to a man who described himself as Page’s old Army buddy, the attacker talked about “racial holy war” when they served together in the 1990s. Christopher Robillard of Oregon, who said he lost contact with Page more than a decade ago, added that when Page would rant, “it would be about mostly any non-white person.”
Page, born on Veterans Day in 1971, joined the Army in 1992 and left the service in 1998, according to Army spokesman George Wright. Page’s service was marked by “patterns of misconduct” and he received a general discharge due to “discreditable incidents,” according to a Pentagon official. Robillard said Page was pushed out for showing up to formation drunk.
John Tew, manager of a Harley-Davidson motorcyle store in Fayetteville, North Carolina, told CNN he fired Page from his parts coordinator job in 2004 because Page “had a big problem with authority” and with working with women. Tew said he found an application for the Ku Klux Klan on Page’s desk the day he was dismissed.
Page’s family said it was “devastated by the horrific events,” according to the Journal Sentinel.
“While there can be no words of comfort that will make sense of what happened that day, please be aware that our thoughts and prayers go out to all the victims and their families,” the family said in a text message, according to the newspaper.
The gunman’s former stepmother spoke of a very different Wade Page she once knew before losing touch with him over a decade ago, when she and Page’s father divorced.
“I would not have known this was Wade,” Laurie Page told CNN affiliate KUSA in Denver, Colorado. “He had Hispanic friends, and he had black friends.”
“What has changed him I have no idea, and obviously we’re never going to know,” she said, moved to tears.
The six victims of Sunday’s attack were identified by police as five men — Sita Singh, 41; Ranjit Singh, 49; temple president Satwant Singh Kaleka, 65; Prakash Singh, 39, and Suveg Singh, 84 — and one woman, 41-year-old Paramjit Kaur. A wake and visitation are scheduled for Friday morning.
The wounded police officer, identified as 51-year-old Lt. Brian Murphy, also was in critical condition after suffering nine gunshot wounds, the police chief said, and had a “promising,” but long, recovery ahead.
A Sikh human rights group said it would give Murphy a $10,000 reward.
One of the dead, Prakash Singh, was a priest who recently immigrated to the United States with his wife and two young children, said Justice Singh Khalsa, a temple member since the 1990s.
Relatives of Kaleka said that he was killed fighting the attacker.
“From what we understand, he basically fought to the very end and suffered gunshot wounds while trying to take down the gunman,” said Kanwardeep Singh Kaleka, his nephew.
CNN’s Brian Todd, Carol Cratty, Mike Mount, Ed Payne, Scott Bronstein, Ted Rowlands, Tom Cohen, Shawn Nottingham, Susan Candiotti, Deborah Feyerick, Phil Gast and Ben Brumfield contributed to this report.