Authorities said a tall, white man in his 40s opened fire just before services had begun, entering the kitchen at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in suburban Milwaukee at about 10:30 a.m. CDT (2000 IST) as women prepared Sunday meal, sending the worshippers fleeing to escape the death.
According to witnesses said the tall white man had a 9/11 tattoo, marking the September 11, 2001 attacks by Islamic militants. “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,” said a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Four people were shot dead inside the sprawling temple. Three more, including the gunman, were killed outside. The gunman ambushed and shot a police officer who was responding to a 911 call and helping a shooting victim, Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards said. A second officer shot and killed the gunman.
The wounded officer, a 20-year veteran, was taken to a hospital and is expected to survive. Hospital officials said two other victims, also in critical condition, were being treated.
The name of the suspect was not released by the Authorities. They said the shooter had used a 9mm semi-automatic pistol, which was recovered at the scene. Officials are tracing origin of the weapon.
Police surrounded and searched a gray, two-storey house in the Cudahy neighborhood, presumed to be the residence of the gunman. Police source confirmed that a search warrant had been issued for the house, and a bomb squad was on the scene.
Temple member and U.S. Army Reserve combat medic Jagpal Singh, 29, said people who were at the service when the shooting broke out described to him a scene of chaos and confusion.
Worshippers scrambled to escape the gunfire, but some tragically ran in the wrong direction. Others survived the rampage by locking themselves in bathrooms.
Family and friends of the victims gathered in the basement of a nearby bowling while waiting for their loved ones to be identified. As the names of the victims was not released late Sunday, several members said the congregation president and a priest were among them.
Turban-wearing Sikhs are often mistaken for Muslims, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation is overseeing the probe into the shootings. “We are however treating this case as a domestic terrorist incident, said the police boss. The Officials had no details about a possible motive.
Milwaukee Hospital reports said three male victims included one who had been shot in the abdomen, one in the extremities and face, and a third who was hit in the neck. The Oak Creek shooting was the latest in a series of suburban U.S. gun rampages.
Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker signed a law in July 2011 allowing citizens to carry concealed weapon, making the state the 49th to allow the practice. The neighbouring Illinois does not allow citizens to carry concealed weapons.
Both President Barack Obama and the Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said they were saddened by the attack. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who grew up as a Sikh, joined in the condolences to the Wisconsin Sikh Temple and family members.
The Indian embassy in Washington said it was in touch with the National Security Council about the shooting and an Indian diplomat had been sent to the Sikh temple in Wisconsin. The Sikh faith is the fifth-largest in the world, with more than 30 million followers. Their belief is “one God and the goal of life is to lead an exemplary existence.”
The temple in Oak Creek, south of Milwaukee, was founded in October 1997 and has a congregation of 350 to 400 people. Alone in the United States are over 500,000 or more Sikhs people.
Since the attacks of September 11, 2001 by Islamist militants, Sikhs have sometimes been confused publicly with Muslims because of their turban headdress and beards.
Members of the Milwaukee Sikh community complained to police and a state representative last year about an upturn in robberies and vandalism at Sikh-owned gas stations and stores.
The Sikh Coalition, the nation’s largest Sikh advocacy group, said it had received thousands of requests for assistance from members of the community related to employment discrimination, hate-crimes and school bullying since the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Source: FRANCIS TAWIAH (Duisburg – Germany)