”Because of the heroic action of our officers, they stopped this from being worse than it could have been.”
Edwards says the officers responded to a 911 call, where they found a victim. Their officer, a 20-year-veteran, was ambushed and shot multiple times by the suspect. The officer is in surgery now. “We expect him to recover,” Edwards says.
”Another officer on the scene was engaged by the suspect,” Edwards says. “Our officer engaged that individual and that individual is deceased from actions our officer took. … It could have been a lot worse.”
”It has taken all day to clear the area… we have numerous individuals that are deceased at this point.”
Edwards says the FBI will be handling criminal incident.
“We’re treating it as a domestic terrorist type incident.” Edwards said there were seven deceased and “three injured including our officer.”
The chief has no info on the suspect: “I don’t have any information for you on the suspect.”
The chief takes questions:
He’s asked what he means by “domestic terrorism”: “Domestic terrorism is somebody who’s doing some active terrorism within the US. Not from another country.”
He’s asked about the weapon: “The weapon is not yet known. Not clear if multiple.”
He’s asked if the temple is clear: “No one left in the temple. That is a crime scene.”
Oak Creek Mayor Steve Scaffidi speaks briefly: The city is outraged. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims. We are thankful for the officers who responded. He pledges cooperation
5.26pm: The Oak Creek police chief described how the suspect in the shooting was killed.
A 20-year veteran of the police force responded to a call of a shooting at the temple and found a victim outside. While treating the victim the officer was ambushed by the gunman and shot multiple times. A second officer then shot the gunman dead.
The officer shot by the gunman is in surgery and is expected to recover.
The chief, John Edwards, said he has no information on the suspect but described the incident as a “domestic terrorist-type incident,” meaning perpetrated by a US citizen within the United States.
5.34pm: Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards said three were wounded in the shooting, including the veteran police officer who was among the first to respond.
Among those who were shot was the president of the temple, Satwant Kaleka, who was taken to a hospital.
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal has reported that the temple president, Satwant Kaleka, was shot and transported to the hospital.
5.36pm: Police Chief Edwards said he had no information on the suspect, who was killed at the scene, in what he called an act of “domestic terrorism.”
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel quotes a temple member on the shooter’s identity:
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.
5.40pm: Oak Creek community members are organizing a vigil tonight for the victims of the shooting and their families and loved ones.
A Facebook page for the vigil is here. A message on the page calls on community members to “come together for a vigil and spread peace and show support for the victims and family members of the Sikh Temple Shootings.”
The vigil is scheduled for 8pm at Cathedral Square Park in Milwaukee.
5.46pm: Local law enforcement met with leaders of the Sikh temple in Oak Creek last year following a series of disturbing crimes apparently targeting Sikhs in the area.
The Oak Creek Patch reported last August:
State Rep. Josh Zepnick and District Attorney John Chisholm visited the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, 7512 S. Howell Ave., on Sunday to discuss public safety issues in the Sikh community.
Satwant Singh Kaleka, president of the Sikh Temple, requested the meeting after the July 4 melee in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood, according to a news release from Zepnick’s office. Those incidents included the looting of at least one Sikh-owned business.
Singh Kaleka told local officials that what was seen in Riverwest has become too common at gas stations and convenience stores owned by members of the Sikh community. Many businesses and workers have been the victims of robberies and vandalism, he said.
6.00pm: A man interviewed outside the temple has told local WISN newsthat the shooting victims may have been members of the temple who came early to help prepare a large community lunch to be held after services.
Two children were the first to see the shooter outside the temple and the first to warn temple members what was happening, the witness said.
“It was a boy and a girl who were sitting outside. The girl was from the family who was hosting the lunch today. The first shot that the shooter took was just like some firework [the children thought].
“He shot the two people who actually came out of the cab and they were entering the church. These two kids [ran inside and alerted members].”
The witness said he spoke to the children and they described the gunman:
“One guy, blue pants, white shirt, white guy, little heavy, who was taking these shots.”
“People who got injured were mostly employees of the church” who’d arrived early to prepare lunch, he said.
The name of the interviewee was not supplied by WISN.
6.03pm: The man interviewed by WISN news who had been inside the temple said that after the shooting started “it was chaos.”
“There are four sections to the church,” the interviewee said. “One for the shoes. One where we worship. One for community lunch where everybody sits and eats food.”
“There were some families who locked themselves in the bathroom. There were some who locked themselves in the kitchen area.”
The man says he does not think the shooting was motivated by hatred of religion:
“I don’t think this person has anything to do with religion. He just came out and started shooting like all other psychos we have heard about who have done other things in the past.”
6.10pm: Local news station WISN is at Froedtert hospital in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
A reporter says one victim was shot in the neck and is in surgery. One is shot in abdomen and chest. One is shot in face and arm.
6.14pm: Residents are being evacuated from the neighborhood of Cudahy, Wisconsin, WISN reports.
Milwaukee police and the FBI are active in the area. Residents have not been told why they are being evacuated, WISN reported.
Cudahy is near Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Airport. WISN speculated that police were investigating the suspect’s residence.
6.21pm: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker tweeted Sunday that he told President Obama that the FBI was “part of an excellent team effort of local, state & federal authorities on site.”
Appreciated the call from the President. It is a sad day for the Sikh community, Oak Creek, Wisconsin, and America.
Walker’s office later released this statement:
While the situation in Oak Creek continues to develop rapidly, we are working with the FBI and local law enforcement. I became aware of the situation late this morning and continue to receive updated briefings.
Our hearts go out to the victims and their families, as we all struggle to comprehend the evil that begets this terrible violence.
At the same time, we are filled with gratitude for our first responders, who show bravery and selflessness as they put aside their own safety to protect our neighbors and friends.
Tonette and I ask everyone to join us in praying for the victims and their families, praying for the safety of our law enforcement and first responder professionals and praying for strength and healing for this entire community and our state.
6.36pm: The Sikh Coalition, the largest Sikh American civil rights organization in the U.S., has released a statement with background information about the temple, or Gudwara, in Oak Creek:
The Gudwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin was founded in 1997 and had over 400 peaceful worshipers that worked and lived in the greater Milwaukee area. The Gudwara, known as being a wonderful neighbor, had come to represent the valued contributions of the Sikh faith in a community where Sikhism was understood to be another contributing fabric in the cloth of American plurality.
The impulse is to assume that the attack is a hate crime, coalition director Sapreet Kaur is quoted as saying:
There have been multiple hate crime shootings within the Sikh community in recent years and the natural impulse of our community is to unfortunately assume the same in this case. Let’s let law enforcement investigate the case and as new facts emerge the dialogue can change. Americans died today in a senseless act of violence and Americans of all faiths should stand in unified support with their Sikh brothers and sisters.
The coalition statement supplies statistics on Sikhism:
With over 25 million followers worldwide, Sikhism is the fifth largest religion in the world, with over 500,000 followers in the U.S. For more information on Sikhism please visit our website here.