We are updating this report as new information becomes available.Law enforcement officials say that six victims have been killed at a shooting at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek Wisconsin, according to local station WTMJ. The temple is located in Southeast Wisconsin, near Milwaukee.
SEE: Heartbreaking Photos From The Sikh Temple Shooting In Wisconsin >
Oak Creek police chief John Edwards has confirmed that there are seven deceased and three injured. The suspected shooter is dead, and one of the injured is a police officer. There is no suspect in custody.
The injured officer, a 20-year veteran, had been “ambushed,” and a second officer was the one who opened fire and killed the shooter, after he was fired upon too, according to Edwards.
Froedtert Hospital’s chief medical officer Dr. Lee Biblo says that the three injured individuals are all adult males, and they are all in critical condition. One has gunshot wounds to the chest and abdomen, the second has gunshot wounds to his face and extremities, and the third has gunshot wounds to his neck.
Two of them have undergone surgery, while one is currently undergoing what was described as a “complex procedure.” The hospital is a level-one trauma centre, so it’s fully equipped and prepared to deal with a situation like this.
The hospital has called this a “mass casualty” incident. A report on WTMJ says that there were “at least a dozen or more ambulances on scene” after the shooting.
According to the local news, the incident happened just before 11:00 AM local time (12:00 PM ET), amid Sunday morning services.
The shooter, who has been described by an ATF spokesperson as a “white male roughly 40 years of age,” allegedly shot the priest at the temple before going inside to continue the shooting inside the temple.
CNN is reporting that according to witnesses, the shooter had a 9/11 tattoo. A federal official tells the LA Times that this led the FBI to treat the incident as an act of “domestic terrorism.”
NBC reports that the gunman had “no obvious connection” to white supremacist groups and was not on any list of suspected terrorists. He had an arrest record, but only for minor offenses.
ABC News, however, reports that its sources have said that the shooting was the work of a white supremacist or “skinhead,” even though police haven’t made any confirmation. Eyewitnesses tell Reuters that he was “either shave-headed or bald.”
No other shooters have been identified thus far.
Two semi-automatic handguns were found on the scene, according to a CNN report. One is believed to be the gunman’s weapon, and the other is believed to belong to the injured police officer. NBC’s Pete Williams reports that the shooter was dressed in tactical gear and armed with a single handgun.
An official tells NBC that police have a tentative ID on the shooter. The gunman’s name and the location of his home have not been released, but WISN 12 News reports that the FBI is on the scene of a home in nearby Cudahy, where they are executing a search warrant. A bomb squad is reportedly at the home as well, and the neighbourhood is being evacuated.
The FBI and ATF are both involved. Tactical officers are standing down and hydrating. Oak Creek officers have secured the perimeter as evidence is collected, and they’re still methodically searching the area with dogs and guns drawn.
The temple is an active crime scene, and the bodies have not yet been removed.
The FBI will be taking over and overseeing the criminal investigation, according to Greenfield police chief Brad Wentlandt.
Originally there were several reports based on witnesses on the scene that there were multiple shooters as well as hostages being held. However at the moment, law enforcement officials say there is no evidence of multiple shooters.
Specifically, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the shooting started with the shooter going up to the priest and then shooting multiple times inside the building.
Here’s some chilling text from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s report on a possible hostage situation earlier:
Someone who sent a text message to a Journal Sentinel reporter shortly before noon said that there were two shooters with children possibly as hostages.
And the head priest was locked inside a restroom with a cell phone and that there were as many as 20 to 30 victims.
Beyond this, details remain hazy. One witness says that two children saw the gunman shoot two people outside the temple before scurrying inside to warn everyone else.
A point that’s being made by Sikhs who have been interviewed by various media is that for the last decade, since 9/11, Sikhs have been the subject of more harassment, due to the fact that they wear turbans, and many mistake them for Muslims. There have been more than 700 incidents involving Sikhs in the U.S. since 9/11, according to the Sikh Coalition. There’s no indication of what the motive is here.
Amidst the terrible events, local news stations are reporting that the Sikhs waiting by the Gurudwara are offering waiting journalists food and water.
The White House says that President Obama has convened a call with FBI Director Bob Mueller, Chief of Staff Jack Lew, and Homeland Security Advisor John Brennan. He has also spoken with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Oak Creek Mayor Steve Scaffidi, and Sikh Temple trustee Charanjeet Singh.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has released a statement about the shooting:
“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 neighbours 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.”
The World Sikh Council, the umbrella organisation representing Sikhs in America, has released a statement as well:
“The World Sikh Council – America Region (WSC-AR) is shocked and deeply saddened by the senseless shooting which occurred earlier today at the Sikh Gurdwara of Wisconsin in Oak Creek near Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It has been reported that a suspect opened fire on a weekly congregation of the Sikhs while a reading of the Sikh scripture was in progress. Current reports say that there are 7 deaths, including an assailant, and many injured. One brave police officer was also one of those injured.
WSC-AR offers its condolences and support to the victims, their families, the law enforcement agencies (especially the police officer shot in the line of duty) and the surrounding community. This is a troubling day, not only for Sikh-Americans, but also for all Americans.
In the coming days, along with Sikh advocacy organisations, we will be working with public officials, and law enforcement authorities, to understand the events of today and to help the community in whatever way we can. The Council will also be providing support mediums for our interreligious partners and the public as we sort out this situation. This shooting comes on the heels of another tragedy, as our country continues to recover from the senseless shootings in Aurora, Colorado.
We urge all to pray for the victims, their families and friends, and the surrounding community. We also express our gratitude towards the law enforcement authorities for their prompt and effective response to the situation as it unfolded. We offer our appreciation for the bravery of the police officer shot, offer condolences, and pray that he will recover fully soon. As we learn more about the situation, we will keep the public updated and informed. We thank you for your patience and prayers during these difficult times.”
In New York City, where there is a rapidly growing Sikh community, police are taking no chances. From NYPD deputy commissioner Paul J. Browne:
“The NYPD is increasing coverage in and around Sikh temples in New York City today, including the deployment of Critical Response Vehicles, as a precaution in the wake of the Wisconsin shooting. There is no known threat against Sikh temples in New York City, however, the coverage is being put in place out of an abundance of caution.”
Reddit has an excellent aggregation and timeline of the news here.
Family and friends who are seeking information about those involved, call 888-298-1964.
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