National News

Wisconsin temple shooter's motives might never be known

Posted August 8, 2012

— There's no trial to prepare, no jury to persuade, no judge to hand down a sentence.

Wade Michael Page is dead after fatally shooting six people at a Sikh temple outside Milwaukee. Although detectives are pursuing leads in several states, their findings might never be presented in court.

So will the full story behind the attack ever be known? And how long will investigators keep looking for an elusive motive that might provide answers to devastated Sikh families, as well as valuable information about white supremacists?

The FBI said Wednesday that the motive behind the shootings at a Sikh temple that left six worshipers dead remains unknown, but authorities still haven't identified anyone other than the gunman as being responsible.

FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Teresa Carlson also said that investigators determined Page died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head after he was shot by police. Authorities previously said an officer had fired the fatal shot.

Carlson says federal officials had not opened any investigation into Page before Sunday's shooting. She says investigators are interviewing dozens of people who have known Page as they work to determine for a possible motive.

Detectives are sifting through the gunman's life, assembling the biography of a man who apparently had few relatives, a spotty work history and a thin criminal record. Investigators have interviewed more than 100 people looking for a motive, and they are plowing through his email accounts, phone records, DOT videos and even neighborhood security cameras.

They have warned they might never learn for certain what drove him to attack total strangers in a holy place. The Sikh community holds out hope.

"We just want to get to the bottom of what motivated him to do it," said Amardeep Singh, an executive with the New York-based Sikh Coalition. "It's important to acknowledge why they lost their lives."

The 40-year-old Army veteran strode into the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin shortly before Sunday services and opened fire with a 9-millimeter pistol. The dead included temple President Satwant Singh Kaleka, who was shot as he tried to fend off the shooter with a butter knife.

Page wounded a responding police officer in the parking lot – Lt. Brian Murphy was shot at least eight times, but his chief said his condition is rapidly improving – before dying in a shootout with police.

Gunman led troubled life

The FBI has taken over the case and released little official information. The fragments of Page's past that have emerged suggest he lived a somewhat troubled life.

A native of Littleton, Colo., he had a record of minor alcohol-related crimes in Texas, Colorado and North Carolina. He was demoted during a stint in the Army for getting drunk on duty and going AWOL before he received a less-than-honorable discharge in 1998.

Ex-soldiers: Sikh temple gunman displayed racist attitude in Army

Page was stationed at Fort Bragg at the time when two soldiers killed a black couple on a Fayetteville street in December 1995. The incident prompted the Army to investigate extremist activity in the service.

Although the probe turned up little evidence of hate groups in the ranks, the Army focused on seeking out signs of extremist views. Officials say less than 0.1 percent of soldiers now harbor such views.

A former soldier who served with Page said this week that, despite the Army's crackdown, Page showed his racist tendencies.

"It didn't matter if they were black, Indian, Native American, Latin -- he hated them all," Fred Allen Lucas told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

It's unclear whether Page's white supremacist leanings played a role in his discharge.

Fort Bragg spokesman Tom McCollum said every new soldier who arrives on post now undergoes a tattoo check. If a soldier wears a suspicious tattoo, he said, Fort Bragg's gang detectives investigate.

The military is a reflection of society, McCollum said, adding that members of gangs and hate groups still occasionally make it into the ranks.

Gun legally bought in Wisconsin

Page eventually moved to Wisconsin, living in South Milwaukee with a girlfriend and working third-shift at a brazing factory in Cudahy, another Milwaukee suburb. Neighbors said the couple broke up this past spring.

The ex-girlfriend, Misty Cook, was arrested Tuesday after FBI agents who went to interview her saw she had a gun. Cook, 31, is a convicted felon, making possession of a weapon illegal.

"If I could say something to ease the pain of the victims and their families, I would gladly do so," Cook wrote in an email to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "Unfortunately, words do not begin to heal the pain they are going through."

Page moved into a Cudahy duplex in mid-July and quit showing up for work around the same time. A few days after he moved into the duplex, he visited a West Allis, Wis., gun shop and, after clearing background checks, bought the gun he used in the shooting.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has described Page as a "frustrated neo-Nazi" who participated in the white-power music scene, playing in bands called Definite Hate and End Apathy.

Rajwant Singh, chairman of the Sikh Council on Religion and Education, said even though Page is dead, other white-supremacy and neo-Nazi groups could harbor similar intentions.

"Our concern is, how do we tackle these hate groups operating underground or in darkness?" he said.

The FBI has classified the incident as domestic terrorism, a violent act for social or political gain. But the bureau hasn't said anything about Page's possible motives.

Now investigators face two tasks: determining what drove Page over the edge and whether anyone nudged him along the way.

Carlson said investigators have no information to suggest that anyone else was involved, but they continue to search to make sure.

Investigation is slow process

Investigators probably will collect all the bullets and fragments from the temple and the victims' bodies to confirm that they came from Page's gun. Detectives also will pore over witness statements to make absolutely certain he was the only shooter, said Joe LeFevre, chairman of the forensic science department at Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton.

Authorities will interview Page's family, friends and associates. Agents spent Monday morning doing a door-to-door sweep on his street, chatting with neighbors on their front porches and in their backyards.

If agents seized a computer from his apartment, they likely will review the websites he visited and any writings he posted. If they recovered a cellphone, they will use it to follow his recent movements as the device shifted from one cell tower to the next.

"It's like any crime," said Jack Ryan, a Rhode Island attorney who trains police around the country. "You focus on their recent tracks. You focus on friends, acquaintances. He had to get ready for this plot somewhere."

The investigation could take weeks or longer. But Page's motive is the key.

If detectives determine Page simply held a personal grudge, the Sikhs and the rest of the public will have an answer. If investigators conclude he was motivated by racist ideology, that might lead police to accomplices, help collect intelligence on white supremacist groups and prevent future attacks.

No matter how thorough the investigation, the final conclusions are bound to leave victims with many of the same anguish-filled questions.

"Whatever the answer is, we can be reasonably sure it won't be an answer many people would say makes sense to them," said University of Wisconsin-Madison law professor Michael Scott, who is writing a guidebook for police on hate crimes.

"We'd like to have some peek into that twisted mind. But in the end, it's still a peek into a twisted mind that doesn't tell us anything we didn't already know about human nature."

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  • Lightfoot3 Aug 9, 2012

    "I'm all for carrying, but how many carriers actually train with their weapon? How often do they shoot? What kind of shooting do they do? Hitting paper targets in a calm environment is a lot different than real combat." - Hans


    While there are certainly those that don't shoot much, your average gun enthusiast probably does more than your average cop, so we're ahead of the game right there. They may, or may not make a difference. But we already know the outcomes when shooters don't have anyone shooting back.


    "You would have an increase in collateral damage, for sure." - prodigalrn


    Precedence says you're wrong.

  • Hans Aug 9, 2012

    "I'm with you..Whatelseisnew. If more law abiding citizens were allowed to carry their guns every where then a lot of this stuff would stop. Or at least the person committing these horrible crimes would not get a chance to do it again." - AX MAN

    I'm all for carrying, but how many carriers actually train with their weapon? How often do they shoot? What kind of shooting do they do? Hitting paper targets in a calm environment is a lot different than real combat.

  • AX MAN Aug 9, 2012

    I'm with you..Whatelseisnew. If more law abiding citizens were allowed to carry their guns every where then a lot of this stuff would stop. Or at least the person committing these horrible crimes would not get a chance to do it again.

  • prodigalrn Aug 9, 2012

    It does not matter what his motivation was for murdering these people. Even if he left some kind of note explaining it, there is no way to prevent the next person that would commit this kind of horrific act from doing it. People need to arm themselves and we need to end all instances of gun free zones. That will not stop all of these events, but it provides a means of reducing the carnage that these kinds of animals do to innocent people.
    whatelseisnew

    While I don't entirely disagree with your opinion, it would be tough to keep everyone trained to use a guy safely in an emergency situation with people running this way and that. You would have an increase in collateral damage, for sure. But I see your point. Seems like we're headed back to the wild west, doesn't it? (Yes, I'm a CCW permit-holder)

  • whatelseisnew Aug 9, 2012

    It does not matter what his motivation was for murdering these people. Even if he left some kind of note explaining it, there is no way to prevent the next person that would commit this kind of horrific act from doing it. People need to arm themselves and we need to end all instances of gun free zones. That will not stop all of these events, but it provides a means of reducing the carnage that these kinds of animals do to innocent people.

  • prodigalrn Aug 9, 2012

    By the way, did you notice that when I asked that Obamacaremust go - guy to cite his allegations, I never heard from him again? Typical. Throw out a lie, and then retreat when it is challenged.

  • prodigalrn Aug 9, 2012

    prodigalrn: - Not sure about Hannity and Fox in general (I don't give any attention to any of the big media houses) but I'd have to agree with you about Rush. I have listened to him 15-20x over the past 5 years. Being a Conservative, I tend to agree with many (not all) of his beliefs but his presentation and delivery make him less than useless IMHO. He has great perspectives and ideas and an amazing platform to speak to so many people on this nation, and he wastes it trying to be like a right-wing Howard Stern. Mark Levin is the same way to me. When he speaks calmly and puts on his "teacher" hat, he is powerful. But most of the time he just rants and raves like a deranged lunatic, accomplishing nothing more than agitating those who wish to be agitated.
    GetRight

    Thank you, sir (or madame) for the thoughtful and polite response. I am not a liberal or a conservative, I just listen to both sides and form an opinion, without all the blustering you hear these days.

  • GetRight Aug 9, 2012

    prodigalrn: - Not sure about Hannity and Fox in general (I don't give any attention to any of the big media houses) but I'd have to agree with you about Rush. I have listened to him 15-20x over the past 5 years. Being a Conservative, I tend to agree with many (not all) of his beliefs but his presentation and delivery make him less than useless IMHO. He has great perspectives and ideas and an amazing platform to speak to so many people on this nation, and he wastes it trying to be like a right-wing Howard Stern. Mark Levin is the same way to me. When he speaks calmly and puts on his "teacher" hat, he is powerful. But most of the time he just rants and raves like a deranged lunatic, accomplishing nothing more than agitating those who wish to be agitated.

  • GetRight Aug 9, 2012

    People... we have got to end the Right vs Left rhetoric. Each this they are completely correct and the other is completely wrong. I happen to lean hard to the right but the idea that Republicans and Conservatives have all the answers and are all correct in their ideologies is foolish. Likewise, the idea that all Liberal Leftists have no correct answers to anything and are completely wrong in all of their ideologies is just as foolish.

    This great nation needs more of us on BOTH sides to stop speaking in such broad condemning generalities and peacefully and intelligently and respectfully address the issues that are important to us. If we don't, then this division that we have been experiencing in an ever-increasing measure will unquestionably be our undoing as a nation. What comes after that? I don't really want to know but I'm afraid that my children and grandchildren will be right smack in the middle of it.

  • prodigalrn Aug 9, 2012

    funny how I always hear this but yet the most vulger offensive and nasty words spewed at pople are from left wing liberals. Maybe sometimes if some people record and replay themselves or go back and read comments even on wral some would get the picture. i see one no better than the other...
    obamacaremust go

    Cite, please? There is no liberal equivalent to Rush Limbaugh, or Sean Hannity. I agree there's fact-twisting on both sides, but usually when I hear nasty, ugly rhetoric, it's usually coming from the right-wing side of things. Like shouting "You lie" in a Presidential speech, or Limbaugh wanting to see naked photos of the girl that was embroiled in the contraception/insurance debate. Most of the stuff I've heard that is truly offensive seems to come from Limbaugh/Hannity/Fox. Please cite where you heard Libs being so nasty. I'd like to see it.

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