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Aug-05-2012 22:29printcomments

FBI: Sikh Shooting Under Investigation as Possible Act of Domestic Terrorism

"This remains an active investigation in its early stages" - FBI Milwaukee Special Agent in Charge Teresa Carlson

The president of the temple, Satwant Kaleka
The president of the temple, Satwant Kaleka, was shot and was taken to a hospital, according to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. PHOTO: HUMAYUN M @ 18% GREY

(MILWAUKEE / SALEM) - Police in Wisconsin say at least seven people were killed Sunday morning, including a gunman, at a Sikh temple located on S Howell Ave near the airport in the city of Oak Creek. The gunshots reportedly broke out around 10:30 a.m.

We know that a police officer was among those injured; the officer had responded to the reported shooting. The scene at the temple was described as chaotic. Bradley Wentlandt, the police chief of nearby Greenfield, Wisc., told reporters on scene that a police officer had exchanged fire with a suspect. "That officer was shot multiple times," Mr. Wentlandt said. "The shooter was put down."

The injured officer was transported to the hospital and is expected to survive. He is described as a veteran of the police force with at least 20 years of service. He was in surgery Sunday afternoon and doctors say he is expected to survive.

Chief Wentlandt did not disclose the condition of the shooter. "We don't know if there are additional shooters inside the temple," he said. "The situation is very fluid. Tactical operations are ongoing."

NDTV reported early that there were at least three gunshot victims, all men, who were admitted to Froedert Hospital, which is the Milwaukee region's main trauma center, a Nalissa Wienke, a spokeswoman for the hospital. One victim had been shot in the head and extremities and another in the abdomen. The third was undergoing evaluation. As it turned out, the number killed was more than twice that.[1].

Later, as the incident developed, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that victims were in the temple's prayer room and that SWAT team members were sweeping the building. The newspaper reported that the temple's president, Satwant Kaleka, was among those shot.

    Of those killed, four of the dead were inside the temple at 7512 S. Howell Ave. and three of the dead, including the shooter, were outside the temple. The president of the temple was among those killed, family members told the Journal Sentinel late Sunday. Three others, including the officer, were reported injured[2].

FBI Milwaukee Special Agent in Charge Teresa Carlson, says the FBI is working closely with the Oak Creek Police Department and other local and federal agencies to investigate today’s shooting incident.

"This remains an active investigation in its early stages," Carlson stated in a press release issued today.

Carlson confirms that the investigation is not overlooking the possibility that the shooting could be an act with implications of terrorism.

"While the FBI is investigating whether this matter might be an act of domestic terrorism, no motive has been determined at this time".

As The Express Tribune in Pakistan reports, people within the Sikh community are also unsure of what may have motivated the Sunday morning killings.

They spoke to Temple committee member Ven Boba Ri who said that based on communication with people inside the temple, the shooter was a white male aged in his 30s.

“We have no idea” what the motive could be, he told the newspaper. “It’s pretty much a hate crime. It’s not an insider.”[3]

The Journal Sentinel Online reports that the shooter was a white male who had been discharged from the Army. One firearm was recovered as well as multiple magazines, according to that same source.

It is a fact that Sikh people throughout history, have been known as a fierce opponents of those we describe today as terrorism. The fact that they wear turbans tragically confuses Sikhs with Muslims who are one of the most targeted groups in the USA over the last several years when it comes to racism, hate crimes and murder, particularly after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

According to religious tradition, Sikh Indians wear turbans to cover their uncut hair and the men sport long beards.

Sunday’s shooting also bore some similarities to a March 2005 incident in Brookfield that saw a gunman kill seven worshippers and himself during a church service at a hotel.

Shooter's Residence Located

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

    Shortly after 5 p.m., a team of law enforcement officers, including from the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Department and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, surrounded a duplex in Cudahy.

    Authorities cordoned off the 3700 block of E. Holmes Ave., just south of downtown Cudahy, where they have surrounded a duplex. A large contingent of law enforcement and fire department vehicles are in the vicinity. The neighborhood was being evacuated.

    Kurt Weins said he rented the upper flat of the duplex authorities were searching to a single man in his 40s about a month ago. Weins lives across the street from the duplex.

    Weins said he had just been interviewed by law enforcement authorities and said he was uncomfortable providing much detail. However, he said, he was surprised by the attention his tenant has attracted.

    "I had him checked out and he definitely checked out," Weins said. "The cops told me they don't want me to say nothing right now."

    A We Energies worker has been escorted by law enforcement officers to the duplex to shut off the gas, and at about 7:40 p.m. authorities were using a bucket truck to look into the windows of the upper flat.

    A military-style Humvee with FBI markings on the side of it moved up the street shortly after 6 p.m. with its lights flashing, moving along the west end of the block.. Authorities in green military uniforms with FBI insignia were seen moving up and down an alley and a street near the duplex.

    At about 7:35 p.m., three law enforcement officers wearing military gear and carrying heavy weapons, were loaded into a basket overhanging the cab of a St. Francis Fire Department ladder truck. The truck moved back slowly down S. Kirkwood Ave. Meanwhile, the area near the duplex was saturated with ambulances from a variety of jurisdictions, fire engines, SUV's and a Humvee with FBI markings.

    At the 4 p.m. briefing, Edwards said the building is secure and tactical officers were standing down. He said the officers who arrived on the scene "stopped a tragedy that could have been a lot worse."[2]

The shooting that left so many victims, leaves the Sikh community in shock. The FBI's Teresa Carlson concluded by stating, "We know our community has been deeply impacted by this incident, and our thoughts are with those affected and particularly with the officer who was wounded in the line of duty to protect others."

Background on Sikh Temple of Wisconsin

    The Sikh Temple of WI was established on October 1, 1997. It started with 20-25 families and the Sangat gathered in the rental community halls in the south side of Milwaukee. In October 1999 Sikh Temple of WI was formally established in the 441 E Lincoln Ave, Milwaukee location. At this time there are 350-400 people in the congregation. The hall and parking lot have outgrown the needs of the Sangat and a new Gurudwara is being built in Oakcreek to better serve the needs of the growing community.

    Sikh Temple of WI bought 13 acres of land at 7502 S Howell Ave near the airport in Oakcreek. The construction of 17,500 sq feet Gurudwara is underway and is scheduled for completion by April 13th 2007. This beautiful brick building will have better facilities, library and educational area for children, play area and parking for 100 cars. It will also provide space for childcare of infants and small children. There will be instruction of reading, writing and speaking of Punjabi language. There will be accommodations for visiting ragi jatha from India and from around the country.

    Sikh Temple of WI has collaborated with the Rangla Punjab organization. Rangla Punjab organizes gidha, bhangra and many other cultural activities and represents the Sikh community in various national and local cultural competitions[4].

Sikhs Have Been Targeted in Salem

It was just over six years ago when people who worship at the Dashmesh Darbar Sikh Temple on Oakhill Ave SE in South Salem faced violent and destructive acts committed against their building. They believed it was more than a hate crime; they say it was an act of terrorism.

The desecration of the former Lutheran church was not the first hate crime against a Salem religious organization; it has happened more than once at Temple Beth Shalom, the Synagogue in North Salem, and other locations. Yet there is no going around the fact that Sikhs are targeted. Police at the time said that while it is alarming and concerning, it is not something that happens frequently in the capitol city.

Investigators said a 4-foot flag with the Khanda, the symbol of the Sikh faith was burned by the vandals. The flag was on a pole located behind the Temple. Fire investigators say the flames spread to some nearby grass and a chain link fence that surrounded the flag pole. Fortunately, it was quickly extinguished[5].

No more information about the Wisconsin shooting will be released until a briefing Monday morning, at which time, Chief Edwards and Mayor Scaffidi will hold a press conference at 10:00 a.m. at the Oak Creek Police Department, 301 W Ryan Rd.

The FBI is leading the investigation. While some witnesses reported there may have been a second shooter, authorities said there was no indication of that.

A hotline has been established for family members looking for information on those involved. The number is (888) 298-1964.

References:

[1] Shooting at Sikh Temple in Wisconsin At least 7 Dead - NDTV

[2] FBI: Motive in Oak Creek Sikh temple shooting unclear - JSOnline

[3] Seven killed in US Sikh temple shooting

[4] Sikh Temple of Wisconsin

[5] Worshipers at South Salem Temple Believe the Burning of Their Flag is an Act of Terrorism - Salem-News.com


Tim King: Salem-News.com Editor and Writer

Al Franken and Tim King in Afghanistan

Tim King has more than twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. Tim is Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor. His background includes covering the war in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007, and reporting from the Iraq war in 2008. Tim is a former U.S. Marine who follows stories of Marines and Marine Veterans; he's covered British Royal Marines and in Iraq, Tim embedded with the same unit he served with in the 1980's.

He holds awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing from traditional mainstream news agencies like The Associated Press and Electronic Media Association; he also holds awards from the National Coalition of Motorcyclists, the Oregon Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs; and was presented with a 'Good Neighbor Award' for his reporting, by the The Red Cross.

Tim's years as a Human Rights reporter have taken on many dimensions; he has rallied for a long list of cultures and populations and continues to every day, with a strong and direct concentration on the 2009 Genocide of Tamil Hindus and Christians in Sri Lanka. As a result of his long list of reports exposing war crimes against Tamil people, Tim was invited to be the keynote speaker at the FeTNA (Federation of Tamil Sangams of North America) Conference in Baltimore, in July 2012. This is the largest annual gathering of North American Tamils; Tim addressed more than 3000 people and was presented with a traditional Sri Lanka ‘blessed garland’ and a shawl as per the tradition and custom of Tamil Nadu, India.

The notorious list comprising Tim's ancestors includes Pedro de Alvarado, the lieutenant of Hernando Cortez of Spain; King Phillip IV, Eleanor of Aquitaine and William the Conqueror. Perhaps most interestingly, King John; the dark force in the story Robin Hood, and also the last Spanish governor of California, a real person fictionalized as the arch rival of the character in Zorro, are in reality both Tim's multiple-great grandfathers.

Tim at his family ranch in Chino, California.

Others include a Confederate officer in the U.S. Civil War and a decorated 'hero' of the Mexican-American War and the so-called 'Indian Wars'. In fact on the east coast, Tim's lineage with the Slaughter and King families, pre-dates the Mayflower and several members of his family were soldiers in the Revolutionary War. He says his family's past; some of which is very dark; some quite chivalrous, presents a certain responsibility, and that in part drives his desire to see that people in today's world are not exploited or allowed to suffer in silence as victims of Human Rights violations, as people of previous times were.

In a personal capacity, Tim has written 2,026 articles as of March 2012 for Salem-News.com since the new format designed by Matt Lintz was launched in December, 2005. Serving readers with news from all over the globe, Tim's life is literally encircled by the endless news flow published by Salem-News.com, where more than 100 writers contribute stories from 23+ countries and regions.

Tim specializes in writing about political and military developments worldwide; and maintains that the label 'terrorist' is ill placed in many cases; specifically with the LTTE Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, where it was used as an excuse to slaughter people by the tens of thousands; and in Gaza, where a trapped population lives at the mercy of Israel's destructive military war crime grinder. At the center of all of this, Tim pays extremely close attention to the safety and welfare of journalists worldwide. You can write to Tim at this address: tim@salem-news.com. Visit Tim's Facebook page (facebook.com/TimKing.Reporter)

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