MILWAUKEE (AP) — There’s no trial to prepare, no jury to persuade, no judge to hand down a sentence.
Wade Michael Page is dead, killed by police after fatally shooting six people at a Sikh temple outside Milwaukee. Although detectives are pursuing leads in several states, their findings might never be presented in court.
So will the full story behind the attack ever be known? And how long will investigators keep looking for an elusive motive that might provide answers to devastated Sikh families, as well as valuable information about white supremacists?
At the moment, detectives are sifting through the gunman’s life, assembling the biography of a man who apparently had few relatives, a spotty work history and a thin criminal record. They have warned they might never learn for certain what drove him to attack total strangers in a holy place. The Sikh community holds out hope.
“We just want to get to the bottom of what motivated him to do it,” said Amardeep Singh, an executive with the New York-based Sikh Coalition. “It’s important to acknowledge why they lost their lives.”
The 40-year-old Army veteran strode into the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin shortly before Sunday services and opened fire with a 9 mm pistol. The dead included temple President Satwant Singh Kaleka, who was shot as he tried to fend off the shooter with a butter knife.
Page wounded a responding police officer in the parking lot before another officer killed Page in a shootout.
The FBI has taken over the case and released little official information. The fragments of Page’s past that have emerged suggest he lived a somewhat troubled life.
A native of Littleton, Colo., he had a record of minor alcohol-related crimes in Texas, Colorado and North Carolina. He was demoted during a stint in the Army for getting drunk on duty and going AWOL before he was discharged in 1998. Page eventually moved to Wisconsin, living in South Milwaukee with a girlfriend and working third-shift at a brazing factory in Cudahy, another Milwaukee suburb.
Neighbors said the couple broke up this past spring. Page moved into a Cudahy duplex in mid-July and quit showing up for work around the same time. A few days after he moved into the duplex, he visited a West Allis gun shop and, after clearing background checks, bought the gun he used in the shooting.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has described Page as a “frustrated neo-Nazi” who participated in the white-power music scene, playing in bands called Definite Hate and End Apathy.
Rajwant Singh, chairman of the Sikh Council on Religion and Education, said even though Page is dead, other white-supremacy and neo-Nazi groups could harbor similar intentions.
“Our concern is, how do we tackle these hate groups operating underground or in darkness?” he said.
The FBI has classified the incident as domestic terrorism, a violent act for social or political gain. But the bureau hasn’t said anything about Page’s possible motives.
Now investigators face two tasks: determining what drove Page over the edge and whether anyone nudged him along the way.