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Continued: Wisconsin shooter fueled by hate

  • Article by: ERICA GOODE and SERGE F. KOVALESKI , New York Times
  • Last update: August 6, 2012 - 10:38 PM

 

His music, Wade Michael Page once said, was about "how the value of human life has been degraded by tyranny."

But on Sunday, Page, an Army veteran and rock singer whose bands specialized in the lyrics of hate, coldly took the lives of six people and wounded three others when he opened fire with a 9-millimeter semiautomatic handgun in a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., the police said. Then Page was shot to death by officers.

To some who track the movements of white supremacist groups, the violence was not a total surprise. Page, 40, had long been among the hundreds of names on the radar of organizations monitored by the Southern Poverty Law Center because of his ties to the white supremacist movement and his role as the leader of a white-power band called End Apathy. The authorities have said they are treating the shooting as an act of domestic terrorism.

In Oak Creek and in nearby Cudahy, south of Milwaukee, where Page lived in the days before the attack, the magnitude and the nature of what had happened were only beginning to sink in, grief competing with outrage. A company flew its flag at half-staff. A Christian minister offered his parishioners' help getting to a Sikh gathering at the Salvation Army.

At a news conference on Monday, Teresa Carlson, a special agent for the FBI, which is leading the investigation, said, "We don't have any reason to believe that there was anyone else" involved in the crime. Law enforcement officials said earlier Monday they wanted to speak with a "person of interest" who was at the temple on Sunday, but by late afternoon they had ruled out any connection between him and the shooting.

Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards identified the five men and one woman who died at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin: Sita Singh, 41; Ranjit Singh, 49; Prakash Singh, 39; Paramjit Kaur, 41; Suveg Singh, 84; and Satwant Singh Kaleka, 65, who was the center's president.

Peter Hoyt, 53, a neighbor of Page's in Cudahy who often stopped to chat with him during morning walks, said he was "stunned" that the man he had known could have done something so violent. Page, he said, told him that he had broken up with a girlfriend in early June.

"He didn't seem like he was visibly upset," Hoyt said about the breakup. "He didn't seem angry. He seemed more emotionally upset. He wasn't mad. He was hurt."

'Incredibly violent' music

Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said Page had come to the center's attention a decade ago because of his affiliation with rock bands known for lyrics that push far past the boundaries of tolerance.

"The music that comes from these bands is incredibly violent, and it talks about murdering Jews, black people, gay people and a whole host of other enemies," Potok said. He added that in 2000, Page had tried to buy unspecified goods from the National Alliance, which Potok described as a neo-Nazi organization and one of the country's best financed hate groups.

But Potok said the center had not passed any information about Page to law enforcement. "We were not looking at this guy as anything special until today," he said. "He was one of thousands. We were just keeping an eye on him."

J.M. Berger, an author and analyst on counterterrorism who runs the Intelwire website, said Page "clearly had a history with the white supremacist movement." A song called "Welcome to the South" by Definite Hate, another band that Page played in and that Berger found online, refers to "our race war" and asks, "What has happened to America/That was once so white and free?"

Although Hoyt, his neighbor, said Page had claimed that he enlisted in the Army after Sept. 11, Army records show that he joined the military in 1992 and separated from it in 1998. He completed his basic training at Fort Sill in Oklahoma and served at Fort Bliss in Texas and Fort Bragg in North Carolina. Listed as a psychological operations specialist, he was never deployed overseas, according to the records, although Hoyt said he had talked about combat.

A source familiar with Page's military history, who had not been authorized to speak about the case, said Page had received an "other than honorable" discharge from the Army, suggesting that he had been pushed out of military service. Pentagon officials said Page had also been demoted, from sergeant to specialist, before leaving the service, another indication of problems.

In June 1994, while at Fort Bliss, the El Paso police arrested Page and charged him with criminal mischief for kicking holes in a wall at a bar called the Attic. He pleaded guilty.

'Precious little boy'

After leaving the Army, Page, a native of Colorado, lived for several years in North Carolina, where he owned a property that Wells Fargo foreclosed on in January.

Page's stepmother, Laura Page, 67, who divorced his father more than a decade ago, described Page as "a precious little boy, a very mellow and soft-spoken person."

For most of his childhood, Laura Page said, Wade Page lived with his mother, a dog groomer, but she died when he was 13 or 14, and "he took it very hard." He was not close to his father, she said, and after his mother's death he moved in with a grandmother and an aunt in Colorado. He enlisted in the military after graduating from high school. "I can't imagine, I can't imagine what made him do this," Page said.

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