Longtime Friends Led Oak Creek Through Sikh Temple Shooting

Steve Scaffidi and John Edwards, friends for some 30 years, were the faces of the city as it went through its darkest hour.

Police Chief John Edwards and Mayor Steve Scaffidi talk to Fox News the morning after the Sikh temple shooting. Photo Credit: Mark Schaaf
Police Chief John Edwards and Mayor Steve Scaffidi talk to Fox News the morning after the Sikh temple shooting. Photo Credit: Mark Schaaf
As dawn broke on Aug. 6, 2012, one day after Oak Creek was terrorized by a mass shooting, the police station parking lot overflowed with news trucks, cameras and reporters.

In the middle of it all were Police Chief John Edwards and Mayor Steve Scaffidi, bouncing from morning show to morning show, trying to put into words for the nation what happened in their city the day before. 

Some 30 years before, they roamed the halls of Oak Creek High School. Now they were tasked with leading the community through one of its darkest hours, the faces of a city to an entire world. 

Friends for the better part of three decades, their familiarity helped present a united front and calm a still-frazzled community on that day and the days that followed.

"To have that wealth of experience with him for 30-plus years and to know his skills and him to know my skills puts you at ease," Scaffidi said. "So we were able to handle the volatility of situation."

"We both understood where the other was coming from," Edwards said. "I could not have asked for a better person standing next to me in any of those interviews."

Later that morning, they were front and center at a packed press conference in the Oak Creek municipal courtroom. There, they laid out the timeline of the attacks, details on shooter Wade Michael Page and injured police officer Brian Murphy and took questions from reporters from across the country. 

The weight of that press conference was not lost on them. As they planned the briefing, Edwards told Scaffidi that Oak Creek residents needed to hear from their mayor first. 

"I said, 'Steve, they need to see they have a very strong mayor, and your support for the community and everything that’s going on," Edwards said. "They need to see from me that they’re safe, and that we’ve done everything we can to make sure there’s nobody left out there, that we’ve taken measures to help everybody feel OK.

"He looked at me and said, 'Got it, let’s go.' We were on the same page from that point forward. Never had to say another word."

Since the attack, Scaffidi and Edwards have given several joint presentations detailing how they handled the response. 

One of the biggest keys is simply to "speak about what you know," Scaffidi said. It sounds easy, but it's just as easy to veer off into speculation or into areas in which you don't have expertise, he said. 

Scaffidi's background is in communication and touted those skills while running for mayor in the spring of 2012. But nothing could have prepared him for the aftermath of the temple shootings, just four months after he was elected.

Having an old friend next to him for much of the time made things that much easier, he said.

"Anytime you spend 30 years with somebody, you’re going to be comfortable with them, and that helped the situation," Scaffidi said. "I had never spoken on national TV before, and to finally be thrust into that role, it was nice to have somebody at your side that understood where you’re coming from."

It was just as unprecedented for Edwards, who was appointed Oak Creek police chief in February 2011 after beginning as a patrol officer in 1985. 

It's not always the case that a mayor and police chief are on good terms, let alone good friends. But in the city's time of tragedy, that relationship paid dividends, Edwards said. 

"I knew where he was going, he knew where I was going," Edwards said. "It really helped, I think, to bring the community back together.

"We played off each other and it was like sitting around in our old softball days, just talking."

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