On Sunday morning, at least six victims were killed and several injured when a gunman opened fire within the premises of a crowded Sikh temple. Including the gunman, the total death toll was seven. The shootings in Oak Creek, Milwaukee occurred at about 10.30 am when there were hundreds of people inside to attend a Sikh priest who had arrived from India. In U.S. stray incidents of violence against Sikhs are not new. Their ritual turbans and beards confuse domestic terrorists as they take them for Muslims.
Harpreet Singh, a member of the community said the gunman, “did not speak, he just began shooting.” According to law enforcement officials, the shooter was armed with a 9-millimeter semi-automatic pistol. The first 911 call to police was received at about 10.35 a.m.
The shooter was killed by a police officer responding to 911 calls, and whose companion was shot several times by the shooter. Allegedly, the gunman shot at the police officer at least ten times while the officer was trying to help another victim. The wounded officer, who is a veteran of 20 years in law enforcement, is expected to survive.
The gunman is described to be bald, white, and of heavy build. He was seen wearing a T-shirt and black military BDU pants. Some people also described that the shooter had tattoos. Thomas Ahern, a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said, “He had tattoos, I don’t know what the exact markings were, or if they represented any of his beliefs or what they stood for.”
Later on Sunday, the police, federal agents, and the county sheriff’s bomb squad moved into nearby Cudahy, evacuated several homes, and searched a duplex suspected to be the home of the gunman. Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards praised “the heroic efforts of the officers,” and said, “they stopped this from being worse than it could have been.”
While four people were shot dead inside the temple, three more including the gunman, died outside. Satwant Kaleka, the temple’s president, and a law enforcement officer were among those severely wounded. Jagatjit Sidhu, a temple member present during the killings said, “the gunman is worse than the one at the theater a couple of weeks ago because he targeted an entire community.”
Both President Obama and Mitt Romney expressed their sadness at the event. Though local enforcement has commented that the case is one of domestic terrorism, the FBI is treating the case with caution as the investigation is still at an early stage. The Indian embassy in Washington has said that it has sent an Indian diplomat to the Sikh temple in Wisconsin and that he was in touch with the National Security Council.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker issued a statement, saying, “Our hearts go out to the victims and their families, as we all struggle to comprehend the evil that begets this terrible violence.”
Sikhism is the fifth-largest faith in the world with more than 30 million followers. There are more than 500,000 Sikhs in the U.S.A. Sikh rights groups contend that there has been more than 700 incidents of bias attacks in U.S. since 9/11, on the Sikh community.