Local News

Temple gunman's extremism grew in military

Posted August 9, 2012

— Wade Michael Page's white-supremacist leanings coalesced during his six years in the Army, including time at Fort Bragg, according to a researcher who knew the man who killed six people when he opened fire inside a religious temple over the weekend.

Pete Simi, a professor of criminology at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, said Thursday that he spent nearly three years studying a group of neo-Nazi skinheads in southern California a decade ago and came to know Page very well.

"He was very approachable," said Simi, co-author of "American Swastika: Inside the White Power Movement's Hidden Spaces of Hate." "He seemed interested in sharing how he came to have the beliefs he did."

Authorities said Page, 40, walked into the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin shortly before Sunday morning services and opened fire with a 9-millimeter pistol. He later ambushed a police officer attending to one of the victims, and authorities said he shot himself in the head after exchanging gunfire with other police officers.

The FBI, which is overseeing the investigation, hasn't yet determined a motive for the attack.

Page told Simi that he had some interaction with skinheads as a youth in Colorado, but he never identified himself with the movement until he was in the military. There, he met like-minded soldiers and began reading supremacist literature.

While serving in a psychological operations unit at Fort Bragg, Simi said Page got to know Pvt. James Burmeister, who was convicted of targeting a black couple on a Fayetteville street and killing them in December 1995.

The Army said Burmeister and another soldier convicted of the murders, Malcolm Wright, were skinheads, and the military began an intensive investigation of extremist groups in the ranks.

Page told Simi that the white-power movement "wasn't rampant" in the Army but added that he "didn't have to conceal it" from superiors.

Researcher: Gunman didn't seem more violent than other skinheads

"He learned from his experience in the military that the deck was stacked against whites," Simi said, noting that Page felt black troops got promoted more quickly and were disciplined less harshly than whites.

"He began to feel like all society was structured and organized like that as well," Simi said.

Page was less-than-honorably discharged in 1998 for patterns of misconduct that included getting drunk on duty. Simi said he doesn't believe Page's beliefs played a role in his discharge.

After leaving the Army, Page headed west to play in a supremacist band, and he continued in the white-power rock scene after returning to North Carolina, playing in bands called End Apathy and Definite Hate.

Simi attended some of the concerts with Page, noting they often featured brawls or stabbings among the mostly male audiences.

Page talked about violence during his interviews with Simi – he appears in "American Swastika" under a pseudonym – but the author said he never got the sense that he was more prone than anyone else to carrying out something like the temple shooting.

"People involved in these groups talk about violence," he said. "It's a regular part of the rhetoric."

47 Comments

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  • Steve Mchugelarge Aug 10, 7:07 p.m.

    I was in during the same time period as this guy and even went to the same post for school as he did for his first job, not the psy-ops job he reclassed to. We had plenty of briefings about gangs and extremist groups, so the military is aware of it, but when no one reports anything or isnt caught in the act, there isn't much they can do about it. I'm a little disappointed about how the military angle that is being played in all of this and some of the selective outrage being directed at the military by some people. These same people, when given the chance, will berate others for judginge a group of people all because of the actions of one person. The double standard some " open minded and free thinkers" live by is sad and pathetic.

  • working for deadbeats Aug 10, 4:37 p.m.

    A hot bed of racial hatred? I guess that's true. There is one group that is constantly practicing it and perpetuating it.

  • JoCoGrl Aug 10, 3:55 p.m.

    "His White Extremist views coalesced and grew in NORTH CAROLINA...a hot-bed of Racial hatred."

    And you don't think that was a racist statement??? Wow!!

  • jblake1932 Aug 10, 3:44 p.m.

    Early exit: Dead on.

  • Mr. Middle of the Road Aug 10, 3:42 p.m.

    'Our media is no different than the ones in the Soviet Union and Venezuela.' Follow the news mwedia in Soviet Union and Venezula do you?

  • Relic Aug 10, 3:10 p.m.

    FACT - His White Extremist views coalesced and grew in NORTH CAROLINA...a hot-bed of Racial hatred. ss3510

    Yep...Bev Purdue is behind it all... What an absurd statement.

  • early exit Roy Aug 10, 2:26 p.m.

    I don't understand the news media, print or tv. You have a (muslim) major in the army that goes to goes nuts at ft hood, tx, that has ties with a foreign muslim radical, and kills about 14 people, but the president and the media do everything possible to claim he isn't a muslim radicalist. But, this dude, who is completely nuts also, commits this crime and and we are told he learned this extremism in the army and he is a white supremacist. It amazes me how our media can draw such diffrent conclusions. Oh yes we can. Our nedia is no different that the ones in the Soviet Union and Venezuela. Same thing!!!

  • robjustrob Aug 10, 1:30 p.m.

    Hey - the story said no motive for the killings has been established. So why the rush to social judgement just because of his beliefs? You mean the president unilaterally decides this is a hate crime, an act of domestic terrorism, whatever, without any resolution as to real motive? Just because of his socio-political affiliations we're all allowed to assume all this hype over the hate rhetoric is actually relevant? You're right - he's still seriously dead. WGAF? Let it go now.

  • jeffjohnson123 Aug 10, 1:00 p.m.

    Poorly written article. Several points missed. Focus appears to be biased. By all means continue to elevate the radicals in our society (be they left or right) without regard to the impact it has on others. More fuel for further incidents.
    Next time, I would suggest speaking to more than one 'expert' before giving an issue this much detail.
    Grade: D-

  • working for deadbeats Aug 10, 12:57 p.m.

    Wow! An article that can bash whites and the military at the same time. Don't let a good crisis go to waste.

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