This morning a man opened fire at a Sikh temple outside Milwaukee, killing at least six people and injuring more. A police officer who arrived at the scene exchanged fire with the gunman. Greenfield Chief of Police Bradley Wentlandt says, "That officer was shot multiple times. The shooter was put down."
The officer, a 20-year veteran, is in surgery at a nearby hospital and is expected to recover. The gunman is believed to be dead. Among the injured is temple president Satwant Kaleka. There are conflicting reports of a second gunman (possibly more) who may have held some people, including children, hostage inside the temple.
Details are still emerging. We don't yet know the name of the gunman, or if there were more than one gunman. And we don't know what the motive was. According to a witness, the main shooter was a white male in his 30s not affiliated with the temple. It appears all the dead were male.
Sukhwindar Nagr tried to call his brother-in-law when he heard about the shooting. A priest picked up the call and told Nagr that his brother-in-law had been shot, as had three priests. But women and children had taken cover in the temple's closets.
As for why -- we still don't know. There has been a sharp rise in attacks on Sikhs since 9/11. Sikhs are not Muslim, but because of their beards and turbans they are sometimes mistaken for Muslims (not that Muslim Americans deserve to be attacked, either!). Sikhs believe in one god and in equality among all. It is seriously fucked-up that someone would come in and shoot people in a house of worship. I wish that gunman were alive so he could be tried and held responsible for these atrocious actions.
This incident would make me heartsick regardless, but coming so soon after the Aurora shooting I'm just stunned. I can't believe it's happened, again, so soon. My thoughts are with the families and with the Sikh community at large.
UPDATE 5:16 p.m.: Via CNN "Oak Creek, Wisconsin, police Chief John Edwards said authorities are treating Sunday's shooting at a Sikh temple in that community as a 'domestic terrorist-type incident, adding that the FBI will head the investigation."
UPDATE 4:45 p.m.: President Obama has issued a statement saying he and Michelle "were deeply saddened to learn of the shooting that tragically took so many lives in Wisconsin."
At this difficult time, the people of Oak Creek must know that the American people have them in our thoughts and prayers, and our hearts go out to the families and friends of those who were killed and wounded. My Administration will provide whatever support is necessary to the officials who are responding to this tragic shooting and moving forward with an investigation. As we mourn this loss which took place at a house of worship, we are reminded how much our country has been enriched by Sikhs, who are a part of our broader American family.
Were you aware of the Sikh religion before today? How much did you know about it?
Image via CNN