Victims Of Sikh Shooting Remembered
Six open caskets were arranged inside the Wisconsin high school's gymnasium and a large video screen flashed photos of those who were killed and injured. Sikh singers sang hymns in Punjabi as mourners filed past the caskets, wearing scarves on their heads in the Sikh tradition. As they took their seats, one of the singers paused to translate some lyrics into English, according to The Boston Globe.
"Dear God, you have given me this body and this soul. This body is doing whatever you want me to do. You take this soul, this is your soul," the singer said.
The wake and visitation, initially scheduled to last for two hours, was extended by another two to accommodate mourners who traveled from abroad and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder as a last-minute speaker. Other dignitaries expected to attend include Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan.
After the service, mourners plan to return to the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, where the shooting occurred, and read the Sikh holy book in a traditional rite honoring the dead called "Akhand Path."
On Thursday, investigators allowed temple members inside the place of worship where they swept, scrubbed and painted over the damage to their building said CNN.
One bullet hole in a door jamb leading to the main prayer hall still remains as a memorial to the shooting victims, The Boston Globe reports.
Wade Michael Page, 40, went on a shooting rampage inside the temple last Sunday killing six worshippers and critically wounding three others. Page then took his own life after being shot by an officer.
Page, an Army veteran who neighbors say played in a so-called hate-rock band, was the lone gunman said Teresa Carlson, special agent in charge for the FBI in Milwaukee, to WPTV.
Police have not found any notes or clues as to why Page went on his killing spree at the temple and his family observed no warning signs.
"This is a guy who moved around a lot. We are zeroing in on any possible motives, but right now, we don't have one," said Carlson.
Authorities have conducted over 100 interviews with people including Page's family, associates and neighbors. They are also examining his emails and other electronic records said WPTV.
Officials said that the 9 mm semiautomatic handgun with multiple ammunition magazines used by the attacker had been legally purchased.
According to a man who described himself as Page's old Army buddy, the attacker talked about "racial holy war" when they served together in the 1990s. Christopher Robillard of Oregon, who said he lost contact with Page more than a decade ago, added that when Page would rant, "it would be about mostly any non-white person."
Page, born on Veterans Day in 1971, joined the Army in 1992 and left the service in 1998, according to Army spokesman George Wright.
Page's service was marked by "patterns of misconduct," and he received a general discharge because of "discreditable incidents," according to a Pentagon official. Robillard said Page was pushed out for showing up to formation drunk.
ABC News reports that those wounded in Page's shooting spree, including the police officer who was shot eight or nine times, are making progress in their recoveries.
The Oak Creek Police officer who was the first to respond, Lt. Brian Murphy, is now in satisfactory condition. Punjab Singh, 65, remains in critical condition and requires mechanical support to breathe after suffering a gunshot wound to the face. The hospital said Singh may have subsequently suffered from a stroke. Santokh Singh, 50, is also in serious condition after his surgery for a gunshot wound to the chest.
Two young children are emerging as heroes after warning others of the gunman. Abhay Singh, 11, and his sister Amanat, 9, were sitting outside the temple when Page first opened fire on two people.
"We ran as fast as we could inside to warn everybody in the kitchen and everybody else there was a man outside with a gun," Abhay - whose name means "fearless" - told CNN's "AC360" on Wednesday. "We were a little bit scared."
The siblings said they hid with others inside a pantry after sounding the alarm.
Mourners held vigils on Wednesday to remember the dead and pray for the wounded. One gathering was held near the White House with an estimate of 200 people wearing orange and blue ribbons to symbolize the identity of the Sikh community. According to WPTV, many wrote notes on a sign with the names of the victims that also had the phrase "United Against Hate," which will be sent to the Wisconsin temple.
At the memorial in Wisconsin, Sikhs and non-Sikhs packed the high school gymnasium to pay their last respects. According to CNN, a group of seven uniformed officers also joined the line with some embracing family members of the victims.
Barinderpal Sandhu and three of his friends, Sikhs who live in Toronto, drove 10 hours through the night to attend the memorial service Friday. All four were in their 20s and wore the distinctive turbans called patkas, according to ABC News.
"Ten straight hours just to show love and support for the community, basically to show no matter where you're from we stand for the same reasons and we're here to prove that," Sandhu said. "Today is a day of being united no matter where you're from. It's for standing up for a cause and for a good reason."
Another Sikh from Toronto drove 12 hours to the temple with several others to show support. Kuldeep Chahal, 35, is a teacher and brought banners and cards that temple members in Canada signed for families of the victims.
"The reason we came down is because we definitely [wanted] to show the community how much we support them," Chahal said.
The six temple members, as profiled by The Los Angeles Times, were:
Satwant Kaleka, 62, who immigrated to the U.S. in the early 1980s with $35, worked his way up to owning several gas stations. Kaleka was the temple president and had come for Sunday morning prayers. His son, Amardeep, said when the elder Kaleka heard the the gunshots he "grabbed the nearest knife" - reportedly a butter knife - and ran towards the sound. "He tried to tackle the gunman," his son said. It's not clear whether Kaleka wounded Page, but investigators say "he slowed him down," which may have allowed other congregants to escape.
Sita Singh, 41, moved to Wisconsin from New York City six months ago to serve as a priest at the temple. His older brother, Ranjit, also served as a priest and died in the attack. Both men lived at the temple. Sita Singh, made sure guests were well fed, even if he couldn't always express it in English. The temple's secretary said that when five English-speaking visitors stopped by, Singh insisted - using only gestures that made fellow temple members laugh - on "food for everybody."
Ranjit Singh, 49, left India for the United States and was hoping to secure a green card so that his family could join him. He left when his son, Gurvinder, was only 7 months old. Ranjit was planning a trip back to India in November for the holiday of Diwali and Gurvinder, 16, was looking forward to seeing his father for the first time.
Suveg Singh Khattra, 84, was a farmer from Punjab. He came to the U.S. in 2004 with his wife, Nachattra, where he lived with his son and his family. Khattra often volunteered in the kitchen. His granddaughter, Sandeep, said he often passed the time at home listening to holy readings on the television or radio. After his wife died in 2010, he began to spend more time at the temple. "I think it's where he felt at peace," said Sandeep. "That's where he wanted to be."
Prakash Singh, 39, came to the U.S. from northern India nine years ago and was working at the temple as a priest. He was waiting to get his green card so he could bring his wife and three children from India. Prakash lived at the temple and was known for helping in the kitchen and being attentive. He was also "a very religious guy, a very honest person, dedicated every day to his job."
Paramjit Kaur, 41, was the only woman killed in the attack. She was the mother of two sons, ages 18 and 20. Kaur and her husband immigrated to the U.S. from India's Punjab region five years ago. Friends describe her as outspoken and sweet and devoted to her faith and family. She worked long hours at BD Medical Systems, a factory that makes medical instruments and reagents, often 11 hours a day, 6 days a week, to provide for her family.
The incident occurred slightly more than two weeks after a shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, left 12 people dead and 58 wounded.
Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, who visited the gurdwara on Thursday, said more massacres will come unless the United States tightens up its gun laws.
"It's easy to be polite to say 'We're so sorry this happened' and give the same speech at the next killing a month from now," Jackson said, calling for a move from "politeness to a change in policy."
Three funerals will be held Friday and three more on Sunday.
For more of Neon Tommy's coverage on the Sikh shooting, click here.