The shooting at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek that left seven people dead, including the shooter, is being looked at as a possible domestic terrorism incident but no motive has been determined, FBI officials said Sunday night.
The agency also confirmed that they are investigating a home in Cudahy - presumably that of the shooter - in relation to the incident.
U.S. Attorney James Santelle, who is personally reviewing the matter, said it is not clear whether it was domestic terrorism.
"My focus is not on what category it is but what happened and the loss of life in Oak Creek," he told the Journal Sentinel.
Oak Creek police officers who responded to a 911 call just before 10:30 a.m. Sunday about the shooting were helping a victim when the shooter ambushed one of the officers, shooting the officer multiple times, said Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards.
A second Oak Creek officer returned fire, killing the shooter, Edwards said.
A source familiar with the investigation said the shooter was a white male in his 40s who had been discharged from the Army. The source said one firearm was recovered as well as multiple magazines.
The wounded officer, described as at least a 20-year veteran of the department, was in surgery Sunday afternoon and was expected to survive, Edwards said during a 4 p.m. news conference.
Of those killed, four of the dead were inside the temple at 7512 S. Howell Ave. and three of the dead, including the shooter, were outside the temple. The president of the temple was among those killed, family members told the Journal Sentinel late Sunday. Three others, including the officer, were reported injured.
Shortly after 5 p.m., a team of law enforcement officers, including from the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Department and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, surrounded a duplex in Cudahy.
Authorities cordoned off the 3700 block of E. Holmes Ave., just south of downtown Cudahy, where they have surrounded a duplex. A large contingent of law enforcement and fire department vehicles are in the vicinity. The neighborhood was being evacuated.
Kurt Weins said he rented the upper flat of the duplex authorities were searching to a single man in his 40s about a month ago. Weins lives across the street from the duplex.
Weins said he had just been interviewed by law enforcement authorities and said he was uncomfortable providing much detail. However, he said, he was surprised by the attention his tenant has attracted.
"I had him checked out and he definitely checked out," Weins said. "The cops told me they don't want me to say nothing right now."
A We Energies worker has been escorted by law enforcement officers to the duplex to shut off the gas, and at about 7:40 p.m. authorities were using a bucket truck to look into the windows of the upper flat.
A military-style Humvee with FBI markings on the side of it moved up the street shortly after 6 p.m. with its lights flashing, moving along the west end of the block.. Authorities in green military uniforms with FBI insignia were seen moving up and down an alley and a street near the duplex.
At about 7:35 p.m., three law enforcement officers wearing military gear and carrying heavy weapons, were loaded into a basket overhanging the cab of a St. Francis Fire Department ladder truck. The truck moved back slowly down S. Kirkwood Ave. Meanwhile, the area near the duplex was saturated with ambulances from a variety of jurisdictions, fire engines, SUV's and a Humvee with FBI markings.
Alma Reyes lives on the corner, three houses from the property in question. She was unable to get to her home with her two young daughters. She said the duplex had been vacant until recently.
In a short media briefing Sunday night in Cudahy, FBI Special Agent in Charge Teresa Carlson said an agency "SWAT team and evidence response team are here in Cudahy executing a search warrant."
Asked how long the search would take, she said, "as long as we need.
"It's going to be a long night."
As of about 10 p.m., police had relaxed the sealed-off area and began taking down many of the traffic barricades surrounding the block by the duplex. The duplex and an adjacent house are lit up by bright portable light rigs. Officers are going in and out of the building.
At the temple shooting scene, a police SWAT team entered the building, 7512 S. Howell Ave., before noon and brought uninjured people out. Members of the Milwaukee Police Department tactical team and the Milwaukee County Sheriff Department tactical team helped with clearing and securing the building.
At the 4 p.m. briefing, Edwards said the building is secure and tactical officers were standing down. He said the officers who arrived on the scene "stopped a tragedy that could have been a lot worse."
Edwards said he could not release any information on the shooter, including what the shooter was wearing, saying there are "multiple reports" of different things. He said there were multiple weapons at the scene, but did not say how many or what variety.
Names of the victims also were not being released, but by evening word had begun to spread among some in the Sikh community.
Officials indicated no more information would be released until a briefing at 10 a.m. Monday. They said the FBI will lead the investigation. While some witnesses reported there may have been a second shooter, authorities said there was no indication of that.
A hotline has been established for family members looking for information on those involved. The number is (888) 298-1964.
White House officials said President Barack Obama was notified of the shootings shortly before 1 p.m. by John Brennan, his Homeland Security adviser. The president continues to receive updates.
After receiving a briefing at 4:30 p.m. from Brennan, FBI Director Bob Mueller, Chief of Staff Jack Lew, Obama called Gov. Scott Walker, Oak Creek Mayor Steve Scaffidi and trustee of the Sikh Temple Charanjeet Singh to express his condolences for the lives lost and his concern for those who were injured.
Manminder Sethi frequently goes to the temple and said he knows one of the priests, Parkash Singh, who was killed.
Sethi said Singh, in his mid 30s, has lived in Oak Creek for several years and recently returned to India to bring his wife, daughter and son to live with him in Wisconsin.
"He was a good guy, a noble soul," said Sethi, a dentist who works in Brown Deer.
Sethi said like many places of worship, the Sikh Temple is always open but services are held on Sunday mornings.
"It's like visiting your home. Your home is never closed," said Sethi.
Among those who were shot and killed was the president of the temple, Satwant Kaleka, his family said. There were earlier reports, amid the confusion, that he was taken to Froedtert Hospital. Kaleka's family said he died at the scene after attempting to tackle the shooter.
Gurmit Kaleka, a nephew of Satwant Kaleka, said Satwant is 65 years old. He is married with two grown sons. One is a former MPD officer. Satwant Kaleka has been president of the church since about 1996. He has never felt threatened or unsafe in any way, Gurmit Kaleka said.
Deepinder Dhaliwal said Satwant Kaleka, his brother in law, was shot in the back.
Dhaliwal said his sister, the president's wife, called him while hiding inside the building with a few other women.
Darshan Dhaliwal, who identified himself as a leader at the temple, said between 20 and 25 women who were cooking a lunch in the basement for after the service and between five to 10 children had been able to leave the temple at about 1 p.m. Dhaliwal said they heard the gunshots and hid in closets for more than an hour before escaping. Dhaliwal said the temple had not been the subject of any threats or graffiti recently.
"This is insanity," he said.
Jim Haase, a retired firefighter, lives on Manitoba Court near the temple. He said that he helped a man from the temple who was shot. He said he heard gunfire and his dog, Paris, "was just going nuts."
"I tended to his wounds," he said. "He was shot right through the side"
"I called the emergency number but I couldn't get through, so I called the non-emergency number of Oak Creek Fire Department and got their med unit to come over."
Haase said the man was in shock, but conscious.
"I laid him down," he said. "I was with him for about 10 minutes. I tended to his wounds, then they took him away."
Lee Biblo, chief medical officer of Froedtert, said three adult male victims were brought to the hospital by ambulance and all were in critical condition. All that suffered from gunshot wounds. One suffered wounds to the abdomen and chest, he said, another suffered wounds to his extremities and face, and a third was wounded in the neck.
Two patients have undergone surgery, Biblo said.
"One is undergoing a complex procedure," Biblo said.
One of the three patients is an Oak Creek police officer he said.
Biblo, who declined to take questions, refused to provide any more information about the patients.
A group of nearly a dozen members of the Sikh community gathered in the parking lot outside the Froedtert emergency room late Sunday afternoon. The size of the group had been growing over the course of the afternoon.
People were in the temple as early as 6:30 a.m. Sunday and many more were arriving for a service that was to begin about 11:30 a.m.
There were reports that children were taken away from the area of the building where the shooting took place after shots were fired.
And the head priest was locked inside a restroom with a cell phone and that there were as many as 20 to 30 victims.
One of the temple's committee members, Ven Boba Ri, said that based on communication with people inside the temple, the shooter was a white male in his 30s.
"We have no idea," he said of the motive. "It's pretty much a hate crime. It's not an insider."
According to Ri, the man started shooting after he walked up to a priest who was standing outside, and shot him.
Then he went inside and started shooting.
People inside the temple were using cell phones to call people outside, saying please send help, Ri said.
"It's sad, I don't know how to describe it," said Ri, who has been fielding calls all morning from around the world, including India.
"Sikhism is such a peaceful religion. We have suffered for generations, in India and even here."
"We're all the same," said temple member Jaswinder Schandock. "Everybody has the same blood."
Gulpreet Kaur's mother was inside the kitchen when the shooting started. She took refuge inside a pantry with about 15 people.
"Two bullets passed by on either side of her, her friend was hit in the foot," said Kaur, 24, who grew up in Oak Creek.
Kaur was allowed in to a bowling alley across from the temple with other family members of witnesses several hours after the rampage, once authorities finished interviewing witnesses. Outside the entrance of the bowling alley, Kaur said her mother was traumatized by what happened and alternately cried and talked about what she heard andsaw.
Kaur's mother was injured in the foot, Kaur believes from shrapnel.
"A lot of effort went into building this temple," said Kaur. "It's surreal to think something like this would happen here."
Parminder Toor, 54, and other women also were in the kitchen, cooking at the time of the attack. She said two little kids ran in, an 8- and 10-year-old, and said there was shooting. They all ran into a pantry. There were 16 people in the pantry for 2½ hours and they were crying. All the food was left cooking in the kitchen. The women could smell the oil burning as they continued to hide from the gunman.
Eventually, police knocked on the door.
"The police officer's knocked on the door, they were scared and didn't want to open it," said Toor's daughter-in-law, Jaskiran Toor, 27.
The police took the women out one by one and had them put their hands behind their head, Parminder Toor said. As they were leaving, the kitchen, the women were crying. Parminder Toor said she saw three bodies in the temple. The police put the women in a squad car and brought them all over to a nearby bowling alley.
Indy Grewal wasn't feeling well Sunday morning otherwise he would have been at the temple. When he heard about the shooting he immediately thought of his mother-in-law Parminder Toor who was at the temple.
Frantic, he called his mother-in-law numerous times on her cell. She didn't pick up. He later learned she was hiding in a pantry after the gunman opened fire while she was helping prepare a meal with other women.
"She heard shots and heard other ladies screaming," said Grewal. "She was lucky she was able to hide herself."
Grewal's mother-in-law was not injured. Grewal can't help but think what if he had not felt ill and instead had gone to the temple Sunday morning, normally he would have been there at the time of the rampage.
"This is one of the worst incidents you can imagine. There are a lot of question marks now. We want to know why" someone would open fire on so many people, said Grewal.
Mandeep Khattra was at his pharmacy technician job when he got a text from his sister shortly before 11 a.m. Their mother Kulwant Khattra, 47, had been inside the temple, heard shooting and called home.
He didn't know his mother's fate until around 1:30 p.m. when he heard she was OK. Later, he finally saw his mother in the bowling alley where witnesses were sequestered for questioning. "She's just shooken up. I just went up and hugged her," said Mandeep Khattra.
However, the fate and whereabouts of his grandfather Suveg Khattra, who is in his 80s, was still unknown at 5 p.m. Sunday.
"He's still missing," said Mandeep Khattra, who lives with his mother and grandfather. Khattra called Froedtert Hospital but couldn't find out if his grandfather was among the victims taken to the hospital. As he waited for word and talked to friends outside the bowling alley, Mandeep Khattra, still clad in his medical scrubs after hurriedly leaving work to drive to the crime scene, said he was confused and wondered why anyone would do such a horrible act "especially at a place of worship."
Baljander Singh Khattra normally drops off his father Suveg Singh Khattra at the Sikh Temple each morning as Baljander leaves for work as a taxi driver. But on Sundays his wife takes his father to the temple while she helps other women prepare a meal.
Sunday morning Baljander Khattra's wife Kulwant Kaur called to tell him not to come to the temple because there had been a shooting. She hid in a pantry with others and when police later escorted her to safety she saw her father-in-law.
"When they brought her out she saw my father on the floor with blood coming from his head," said Baljander Khattra as he sat at a picnic table waiting for word.
"I'm worried about him. The way she saw it, she believes he's dead," he said at 5:30 p.m.
Baljander's father is 84 and moved to Oak Creek from the Punjab region of India in 2004 to live with his son. Suveg Singh Khattra's wife ofmore than six decades died two years ago. Suveg enjoyed visiting with folks at the temple. "He loved to come to the temple and talk to people. He speaks only Punjab. He's a nice father," said Baljander Singh Khattra.
As he waited for to learn about his father, Baljander Khattra's thoughts turned to the shooter. "I don't know what that person thinks. We are not Muslim, we are peaceful. The Sikh Temple is open to anybody," he said.
Groups of temple members were gathered, on cell phones, conferring in small groups and watching from afar, including the parking lot of a nearby day care center. A member of the Sikh Temple in Brookfield said three of those who were killed are priests. Authorities have not identified any of those who died.
There were few tears in the daycare center parking lot; just shock and disbelief, as the hot sun beat down from a deep blue sky. A few small trees around the parking lot perimeter provided little shade. Some older people sat in cars with the air conditioning on. By mid-afternoon the American Red Cross delivered bottled water.
The daycare center parking lot filled with cars of temple-goers, including several yellow taxi cabs, some parked as though they arrived in a hurry.
Almost everyone in the parking lot had a cell phone out, and was either texting or talking on it, trying to get what little information they could about what was happening two blocks away at the temple. All they could see from the parking lot was paramedic units lined up, two by two, waiting to be dispatched to the temple from a staging area along Marquette St. The paramedic units moved up as police secured the temple.
Charanpreet Kaur said she arrived later than usual for services with her two young children, ages 7 and 2. Her aunt was among the women inside when the shooting occurred, and she was still waiting at 3:30 p.m. for word on how her aunt was doing.
At least two dozen ambulances responded, including from Oak Creek, Caledonia, North Shore Fire, Greenfield and West Allis. Those ambulances had moved to the temple about 12:40 p.m.
As of about 3:45 p.m., the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office said it had not been called to the scene.
The Joint Terrorism Task Force, a collection of federal, state and local law enforcement, was on the scene of the shooting by 1 p.m. Those task forces, several of which are situated around the country, typically work quietly to prevent terrorism attacks but also respond to mass shootings to help coordinate law enforcement. Sources said it was too early to say if this will be considered an act of terrorism.
U.S. Attorney James Santelle said he expected federal law enforcement will play a role in the investigation. Exactly what that role is remains to be seen, Santelle said.
"I am clearly anticipating that there will be federal investigative support," Santelle said.
The FBI and U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives both confirmed that their agents were on the scene of shooting and assisting local law enforcement. The agencies declined comment, saying Oak Creek police are the primary point of contact. The ATF did say that the gun or guns used in the shooting will be traced to the original purchaser.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice also was said to be sending agents to assist in the investigation.
Meanwhile, Brookfield police officers were dispatched to the Sikh Temple at 3675 N. Calhoun Road as a precaution in the aftermath of the Oak Creek shooting.
At least three squads were at the temple in Waukesha County and they blocked off roads leading to the building.
About 50 people were at the Brookfield temple for a morning service and many of them went outside after they learned of the shooting in Oak Creek.
Gurcharan Grewal, president of the Sikh Religious Society of Wisconsin told a Journal Sentinel reporter: "People are really shocked. There was a little bit of panic. But everything is holding together."
He said U.S. Senate candidate Tommy Thompson was at the Brookfield location to address the congregation when the news of the shooting from Oak Creek came in.
Grewal said he has heard no theories on the shooter's motivation.
"Nobody knows," he said. "There was no indication, no warning, nothing. I think it was just some isolated hate crime or something. "
Grewal said he thought 40 or 50 people were in the temple, not the 400 or so who might have been present after 11:30 a.m.
Among those shot, he said, were two priests. He did not know their conditions.
He spoke with another priest, Gurmail Singh, who was locked in a closet, and was not injured.
In the Brookfield temple Sunday evening, a few members stayed and waited for updates, but most had gone home by 6:15 p.m. A small group of law enforcement officers, including the FBI, huddled outside the temple.
"It's a very sad situation, what happened today," said temple member Kuldip Ahuja. "It should not have happened at a place of worship, especially a Sikh church - Sikh temple - where we welcome people from all creeds, origin or any faith."
Following the shooting at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, the Islamic Society of Milwaukee, locked down the mosque at 4707 S. 13th St. in Milwaukee with a police car guarding entrance doors. During the afternoon prayer, around 1 p.m., the mosque was only allowing in attendees they recognized.
Due to the conflicting reports of the number of shooters, the mosque contacted the Milwaukee Police Department to request security. "We have to remain vigilant to make sure we protect our community," said Othman Atta, Islamic Society executive director.
Also in response the temple shooting, the 128th Air Refueling Wing at Mitchell International Airport went into lockdown for a time on Sunday. No personnel were allowed in or out of the base to ensure maximum safety and security.
More than 20 million people worldwide follow the Sikh religion, established about 500 years ago in the Punjab region of India. Devout male followers must wear long beards and their hair in a turban, and in America are sometimes mistaken for Muslims; the two religions are not affiliated.
In the days after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, at least four acts of violence against Sikhs occurred in the Milwaukee area, said Swarnjit S. Arora, a founder of the local Sikh Religious Society. Two taxis owned by Sikh drivers were vandalized, and two Sikh men were assaulted, said Arora. The crimes were not widely reported by the news media because they were overshadowed by dramatic events across the nation, he said.
About 3,000 Sikh families live in southeastern Wisconsin. A tight-knit community, they meet for religious services and to share meals at the Religious Society in Brookfield and the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, in Oak Creek, which opened in 2007. .
The Oak Creek scene was similar to the situation in 2005, when a gunman killed seven people and himself at a church meeting in a Brookfield hotel.
Terry Ratzmann, 44, opened fire March 12, 2005, during a worship service of the Living Church of God at the Sheraton hotel in Brookfield.
I find this quote particularly curious: "On End Apathy's MySpace page, band members call their music, “a sad commentary on our sick society and the problems that prevent true progress.” Progress? Smells a little like far-left anarchist thought process to me.