OAK CREEK, Wis. — Wade Michael Page played in white supremacist heavy metal bands and posted frequent comments on Internet forums for skinheads, repeatedly exhorting members to act more decisively to support their cause.
“If you are wanting to meet people, get involved and become active,” he wrote last year. “Stop hiding behind the computer or making excuses.”
A day after Page strode into a Sikh temple with a 9mm handgun and multiple magazines of ammunition, authorities were trying to determine if the 40-year-old Army veteran was taking his own advice when he opened fire on total strangers in a house of worship.
Detectives cautioned they might never know for sure. But the picture of Page that began to develop Monday — found in dark corners of the Internet, in records from a dodgy Army career and throughout a life lived on the margins — suggested he was a white supremacist who wanted to see his beliefs advanced with action.
Page, who was shot to death by police, described himself as a member of the “Hammerskins Nation,” a skinhead group rooted in Texas that has branches in Australia and Canada, according to the SITE Monitoring Service, a Maryland-based private intelligence firm that searches the Internet for extremist activity.
Between March 2010 and the middle of this year, Page posted 250 messages on one skinhead site and appeared eager to recruit others. In March 2011, he advertised for a “family friendly” barbecue in North Carolina, imploring others to attend.
“Stand and fight, don’t run,” he implored.
In an April message, Page said: “Passive submission is indirect support to the oppressors. Stand up for yourself and live the 14 words,” a reference to a common white supremacists mantra.
The bald, heavily tattooed bassist trained in psychological warfare before he was demoted and discharged more than a decade ago. After leaving the military, he became active in the obscure underworld of white supremacist music, playing in bands with names such as Definite Hate and End Apathy.
Still, Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards cautioned Monday that investigators might never know for certain what motivated the attack on the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in suburban Milwaukee. So far, no hate-filled manifesto has emerged, nor any angry blog or ranting Facebook entries.
“We have a lot of information to decipher, to put it all together before we can positively tell you what that motive is — if we can determine that,” Edwards said.
Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit civil rights organization in Montgomery, Ala., described Page as a “frustrated neo-Nazi” whose bands’ sinister-sounding names seemed to “reflect what he went out and actually did.”
Their lyrics talked about genocide against Jews and other minorities.
In a 2010 interview, Page told a white supremacist website that he became active in white-power music in 2000, when he left his native Colorado and started the band End Apathy in 2005 in Nashville, N.C.