On Aug. 5, as worshippers at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek, a Milwaukee suburb, gathered for Sunday morning services, Wade Michael Page walked into the complex and opened fire, killing six people and wounding four others. He might have killed more had not the temple president Santwat Singh Kaleka, 65, tried to disarm the gunman by slashing him with a knife, possibly giving others time to get to safety. But it also meant that he was an easy target for the attacker, who killed Kaleka without hesitation.
Police rushed in and engaged him in a firefight. During the melee, Lt. Brian Murphy, 51, a Brooklyn-born 21-year veteran of the Oak Creek police took nine bullets including one to the neck. Page had ambushed him as the policeman was to trying to help a victim. Heroically, Murphy still waved his fellow officers on to tend others Page had already hurt in the temple. Officer Sam Lenda fired at Page, hitting him in the stomach. Page’s wound left him unable to escape, so he turned his 9 millimeter semiautomatic, a weapon he legally purchased, on his own head and squeezed the trigger.
Authorities later linked Page to several radical far right groups, saying he was an active neo-Nazi who had played in a white supremacist punk band. No motive for the shooting was discovered. Little else is known about him other than his U.S. Army service from 1992 to 1998. It is not known why he chose to target this particular temple, or Sikhs in general.
The Sikh community, rather than shutting their temple down decided to clean and repair the building and continue worshipping there. Wade Michael Page may have staged his attack to shine a spotlight on himself and his racist ideology but, in spite of the carnage, the incident became an example of how ordinary heroism could shine in the face of a sudden onslaught of evil.