Police: Gunman in Oak Creek Sikh Temple Shooting Acted Alone
Seven killed, four injured in shooting spree, including veteran Oak Creek police officer.
A 40-year-old Army veteran acted alone in Sunday's shooting of six people at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek, authorities said Monday.
The shooter was identified by police as Wade Michael Page who recently moved to Cudahy. Page was shot and killed by police at the scene.
"We have every reason to believe there was only one shooter ... though our investigation to that end continues," U.S. Attorney James Santelle said at a press conference Monday morning.
"Oak Creek is secure."
Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards said a person of interest showed up on scene after the shooting. Someone told an officer the man looked suspicious. The person left before being questioned, Edwards said.
Multiple media outlets reported Monday afternoon the FBI found the man and he has been cleared.
Three bodies were found outside the temple at 7512 S. Howell Ave. and four were inside the building.
Authorities said five men and one woman were killed in the shootings, and the victims were between the ages of 41 and 84.
At a news conference at Froedtert Hospital Monday afternoon, doctors said three people, including the officer, remain in critical condition. A fourth person was released from the hospital Sunday.
Officials said they are pursuing several leads but don't know of a motive yet.
"We are 24 hours out ... we are actively continuing with this investigation," Santelle said. "Many things (we) will not be able to comment on."
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Officials said they are investigating the incident as possible domestic terrorism — the use of violence for social or political reasons — and are looking into Page's background, including ties to white supremacy groups.
The FBI had no reason to believe he was planning or plotting an attack, special agent in charge Teresa Carlson said, nor did it know of threats against the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek.
Page did have previous contact with law enforcement, though Carlson did not get into specifics. Page served in the military from 1992 to 1998, was discharged and was ineligible for re-enlistment, according to Edwards.
SWAT team members searched Page's residence in Cudahy Sunday night but Carlson did not reveal what was found. Agencies worked through the night at the Sikh Temple, which is still an active crime scene.
Carlson said they hope they can open the Sikh Temple back up later this week.
The gun used in the incident was purchased legally and Page was not prohibited from having one, said Bernard Zapor, special agent in charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
The Oak Creek police officer shot Sunday was identified as 51-year-old Lt. Brian Murphy, a 21-year veteran of the force. Officials said he was shot eight or nine times at a "close range", and is in critical condition. Murphy was the leader of the police department's tactical unit.
Edwards said Murphy was the first officer on scene and was "ambushed" when he left this vehicle to come to the aid of a shooting victim. When other officers arrived to help Murphy, he waved them off and told them to go into the temple. (See this Patch story for more on Murphy)
Twenty-seven agencies from Milwaukee County and the surrounding area were responded to Sunday's incident after the first 911 call came in at 10:25 a.m.
Edwards said officers had to secure the building before they could enter, which added to the time victims had to wait inside.
"That is how we have to operate. They are the first responders, they need to get in and assist the people in there. And we can't do that if we're hurt," Edwards said. "That must seem like an eternity to those people who were inside there. But rest assured, we weren't waiting for any other reason (other than) to make sure nobody else outside was going to be hurt and we could get them out as safely as possible."
After they cleared the temple, officers searched about a three-square mile area, knocked on doors and spoke with about 200 residents.
"We want them all to know that this was the only shooter and there's nothing more to worry about as far as this situation goes," Edwards said.
Oak Creek Mayor Steve Scaffidi said that heroic actions of officers prevented an even greater tragedy for a community that is still in shock.
"Sunday was a tragic day for our city, especially given that it occurred in a place of worship," Scaffidi said. "Oak Creek is a diverse, welcoming city. We host 23 places of worship, and the Sikh community is part of that."
Edwards said the department trains for active-shooter situations and the officers did exactly what is expected of them.
"In my mind, they're all heroes," he said. "I was asked today, what do you think of their actions. It didn't surprise me in the least."
Sikh members also praised the response of police during the news conference while expressing worry that more people like Page are out there.
"How many other people might there be like him that are a threat that we don't know about — that's the problem with these types of situations," Carlson said. "That's why we need the community's support because sometimes these people don't come to law enforcement's attention until it's too late. People do need to be vigilant and look for suspicious behavior and report them."
Later Monday, President Barack Obama issued a proclamation ordering flags to be flown at half-staff.
He also commented on the shootings, saying they occur with "too much regularity," according to a Journal Sentinel report.
Gov. Scott Walker was in Oak Creek today and met with law enforcement officers and first responders.
He tweeted that he also dropped by the Salvation Army to thank volunteers.