Shooting at Sikh temple near Milwaukee leaves seven people dead, three wounded
Post by Emily Mills on 8/5/2012 4:53pm
UPDATED 8:12 p.m. A gunman opened fire at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek near Milwaukee just after 10 a.m. Sunday morning, killing six people and wounding three others before being shot and killed by a police officer.
The latest report from NBC 15 is that the incident is being treated as a case of domestic terrorism by the FBI, which is investigating. The Joint Terrorism Task Force, a collection of federal, state and local law enforcement, was also on the scene of the shooting by 1 p.m.
Law enforcement had also entered a home in Cudahy and cordoned off the surrounding block Sunday afternoon, though it's still unclear what connection the house may have to the shooting.
Gurcharan Grewal, president of the Sikh Religious Society of Wisconsin told a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter that he "thought 40 or 50 people were in the temple, not the 400 or so who might have been present [for services] after 11:30 a.m. Among those shot, he said, were two priests. He did not know their conditions."
The temple president, Satwant Kaleka, was among those wounded and was taken to the hospital.
A SWAT team entered the building at around noon and evacuated uninjured people who were still inside. Shortly before 1 p.m. an explosion was reportedly heard from within the temple and gunshots were also later heard. There is no word yet what the causes were.
It was one of the first police officers to respond to the scene this morning who encountered the shooter and exchanged shots, reportedly killing the suspect. The officer was also hit several times and is being cared for at a nearby hospital, where he is expected to survive.
Sikhism is a 500-year-old panentheistic religion founded in the Punjab region of India, which is where the largest population of Sikhs still live. There are some 30 million practitioners worldwide, making it the fifth-largest organized religion.
Estimates put the total population of Sikhs in the United States at roughly 500,000: "Observant Sikhs do not cut their hair; male followers often cover their heads with turbans — which are considered sacred — and refrain from shaving their beards."
Sikhs have been targeted by terrorism especially since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, as people mistakenly identify them as Muslim.
"Sikhs are expected to embody the qualities of a "Sant-Sipāhī"—a saint-soldier. One must have control over one's internal vices and be able to be constantly immersed in virtues clarified in the Guru Granth Sahib. A Sikh must also have the courage to defend the rights of all who are wrongfully oppressed or persecuted irrespective of religion, color, caste or creed."
The incident Sunday marks the fourth mass shooting in the state since 2004.
A vigil held in front of the Capitol building in Madison Sunday evening brought together several dozen people, including members of the local Sikh community. A sign with "Peace is the word" provided the backdrop for five minutes of silence followed by words of support and grief from those in attendance.
"This isn't a political event, this is about showing our support for all members of our community, and our shared grief at what's happened today," said Callen Harty, who organized the vigil.
Emily Mills is Editor-At-Large for Dane101, as well as Editor of Our Lives Magazine. She is also a freelance writer, photographer, actor, and musician (drummer and singer in local band Little Red Wolf). Originally from several states up and down the Midwest Emily has called Madison home since 2000. Contact her at