A skinhead with a 9/11 tattoo shot up a Sikh temple in suburban Milwaukee yesterday, killing six people in what police labeled an act of domestic terrorism.
The bloodbath ended when he was shot to death by an officer.
Three people, including a cop, were wounded when bullets started flying at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek. They including a man who heroically tried to tackle the killer.
“We’re treating this as a domestic-terror-type incident,” said Police Chief John Edwards.
Officials said a lone gunman appeared to be behind the rampage, but cops did not rule out the possibility of an accomplice. They did not identify the killer or say what his motive might have been.
As the hate-filled madman made his way through the temple, terrified congregants hid in closets, trying to text for help. Others were able to run to safety outside.
Shortly after cops arrived, a 20-year-veteran officer was aiding a victim when the gunman shot him several times. A second cop then got into a shootout with the suspect and killed him.
“They stopped this from being worse than it could have been,” Edwards said.
The wounded cop was expected to survive.
Tactical units stormed the temple, found four people dead inside and three outside, including the suspected shooter.
Ven Boba Ri, one of the temple members, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel the killer was “not an insider” and called the attack “a hate crime.”
The gunman, he said, walked up and shot a priest who was standing outside, then went inside and opened fire.
“He did not speak, he just began shooting,” said Harpreet Singh, recounting what he was told by his aunt.
Kanwarpdeep Singh Kaleka, a member of the temple, said the madman had a 9/11 tattoo on one of his arms. He also told CNN that the shooter seemed to be targeting men wearing turbans, including his uncle, who was wounded.
“Everyone of all faiths are allowed in the temple,” Kaleka said. “It’s unfortunate that someone took advantage of this.”
Two semiautomatic handguns believed used by the shooter were recovered at the scene, a law-enforcement source told CNN.
Sunny Singh, 21, of Milwaukee, said a friend pulled into the temple’s parking lot, heard shots and saw two people fall. The friend then saw the shooter reload his weapons and head to the temple’s entrance, Singh said.
Gurpreet Kaur, 24, said her mom and 14 other women were preparing a meal for after the service when the shooter entered the kitchen and opened fire.
Amardeep Kaleka told CNN his 65-year-old father, temple President Satwant Singh Kaleka, was shot “multiple” times as he tried to tackle the gunman.
Last night, a SWAT team and agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms surrounded a home in nearby Cudahy. They cordoned off the block, and FBI agents were on the scene with an armored truck.
Kurt Weins told the Journal Sentinel he rented the upper apartment of the duplex to a single man in his 40s about a month ago.
Weins said that he had been interviewed by authorities and that 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.”
Police would not confirm that was where the gunman lived, but a woman who identified herself as the mother of his landlord said the killer had just broken up with his girlfriend, the Oak Creek Patch reported.
President Obama said, “Our hearts go out to the families and friends of those who were killed and wounded.”
Sandeep Khattra told CBS News her grandfather was killed, while her mother was among those who hid in the kitchen.
Cops said the first 911 call was received at 10:35 a.m. Three hours later, police were searching the temple to determine whether the gunman had an accomplice. Several witnesses said they believe there was more than one gunman.
Sikh rights groups have reported a rise in misdirected bias attacks since 9/11, despite their faith being unrelated to the 2001 terrorism.
Observant Sikhs do not cut their hair. Men often cover their heads with turbans and refrain from shaving their beards.
Sikhism is a monotheistic faith that was founded in South Asia more than 500 years ago, with roughly 27 million followers worldwide.
The Washington-based Sikh Coalition has reported more than 700 incidents in the United States since 9/11, which advocates blame on anti-Islamic sentiment, even though Sikhs don’t practice the same religion as Muslims.