Law enforcement officials have officially identified the suspect who allegedly killed six people and wounded several more in the Sikh Temple shootings in Oak Creek, Wis., on Sunday, before being killed himself: Wade Michael Page, 40. Witnesses describe the former Army psych-ops specialist as a bald, bulky white man with several tattoos, including one that references 9/11, and news outlets are reporting Page's links to white supremacy groups and issues with alcohol abuse. Who is he? Were the shootings racially motivated? Here's what we know so far:
What did Page do?
It's unclear whether Page was employed at the time of the shootings, but he reportedly worked as a truck driver from April 2006 to August 2010. According to reports, he was fired from his job when he was caught driving under the influence of alcohol or some other illegal substance in North Carolina. A statement from his former employer says that, at the time, he refused to cooperate with police and submit to a blood-alcohol test. Prior to his truck-driving stint, Page served in the Army beginning in April 1992 until he was give a "less-than-honorable discharge" in October 1998, says CBS News. According to sources in the military, Page served at Fort Bliss, Tex., and was last stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., where he served in the psychological operations unit. He was reportedly let go by the Army in 1998 when he was "found drunk during military exercises," says the Washington Post.
What were his military duties?
Psychology specialists are responsible for the "analysis, development, and distribution of intelligence used for influencing foreign populations," says John Bacon at USA Today. The New York Post reports that, before moving on to the Army's psych unit, Page worked as a "Hawk missile system repair specialist." According to the Pentagon, although he was discharged, he was a decorated serviceman: Records show he was awarded five Army achievement medals, two Army good conduct medals, a National Defense Service Medal, and a Humanitarian Service medal, says the Los Angeles Times.
What evidence is there that he was a white supremacist?
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a group dedicated to the ongoing study of hate crimes, alleges that Page was a "frustrated" neo-Nazi sympathizer who moonlighted as the leader of a racist white-power punk band called End Apathy. (See the band's MySpace page.) According to Heidi Beirich, director of the center's intelligence project, the center had been tracking Page since 2000, when he allegedly attempted to purchase goods from the National Alliance, a once-prominent white supremacy group. There's "no question" Page was a follower of the supremacist movement, Beirich tells the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Page was known to attend "hate events" all around the country, per the center's surveillance, and was definitely "involved in the scene." (For more on Page's ties to the white power movement, click here).
What kind of tattoos did he have?
One of his neighbors living near his duplex in Cudahy, Wis., another Milwaukee suburb, says that Page was frequently spotted with a visible 9/11 tattoo on his upper right arm when walking his dog. The tattoo clearly said "9/11" and "had a bunch of descriptions and stuff," claims the neighbor. Among Page's other tattoos, according to similar accounts: Indistinguishable lettering on his hands, a Celtic knot on his back, and flames on one of his legs.
Did he have a criminal record?
He did, Oak Creek police Chief John Edwards tells CNN. A background check revealed separate convictions for DUI in Colorado in 1999 and "criminal mischief" in Texas in 1994, although the nature of the latter incident is again unclear.
What do authorities know about the gun?
The weapon in question — a 9 mm handgun purchased legally, according to The Washington Post — was tracked by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives per an "urgent request" from the government agency. Federal agent Bernard Zapor said of the gun, "We know of its origin. We know where it came from," and "how it ended up in the hands of this killer," but Zapor declined to release specifics.
Were the shootings racially motivated?
Police are calling the shootings an act of "domestic terrorism," and police are investigating it as a "possible hate crime," says CBS News. Witnesses say they'd never seen Page at the Sikh Temple before. Many commentators are concluding, perhaps prematurely, that the alleged shooter confused the turbaned Sikh worshipers with Muslims. "He did not speak, he just began shooting," says Harpreet Singh, relaying a description of the attack from the wife of his uncle, temple president Satwant Singh Kaleka.
This article — originally published on August 6, 2012 — was last updated on August 7, 2012.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Why the West should let Russia have eastern Ukraine
- 9 Harvard dropouts who became fabulously successful
- Why you should stop believing in evolution
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- The dangers of our passionless American life
- How China sparked an Asian frenzy for killer submarines
- What is Molly? Everything you need to know about the party drug
- How I became a borderline hoarder
- The real reason conservatives should be outraged that police killed a white youth
Subscribe to the Week