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Now is the time to remember the victims

Wednesday, August 08, 2012 - Updated: 9:09 PM

Satwant Singh Kaleka. Paramjit Kaur. Brian Murphy. Sita Singh. Prakash Singh. Punjab Singh. Ranjit Singh. Santokh Singh. Suveg Singh

Remember these people -- victims of a killer who attacked the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek on Sunday morning. Six are dead, three grievously injured by a man with a 9mm handgun legally purchased at the end of July. Police killed him when he turned the gun on them.

Wade Michael Page was 40 when he died ignominiously on the ground outside the temple. The authorities have not officially labeled his actions a "hate crime," but in a broader sense, they are exactly that -- hate rained down on innocent people on a beautiful Sunday morning in August.

It is essential over the coming days to try to understand Page and his actions so we can better learn how to prevent such wanton acts. But today, it is more important to remember the victims and their courage. Those stories are only now beginning to be told.

We want to remember what Satwant Singh Kaleka did.

At 65, he died after trying to tackle the much younger gunman. He was the temple's president.

We want to remember the children who saw the horrible event unfolding outside the temple and spread the alarm.

We want to remember Oak Creek Police Lt. Brian Murphy, a 21-year veteran of the force and the first officer to reach the scene.

Murphy immediately tended to one of the wounded outside the temple and was ambushed by the killer who shot him eight or nine times. When other officers ran to his aid, Murphy waved them off.

"He told them to go into the temple" to help the other wounded, Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards said. Murphy is hospitalized along with Santokh Singh and Punjab Singh.

There are reports that Page was connected to white supremacist hate groups -- that he was, in the words of an expert at the Southern Poverty Law Center, a "frustrated neo-Nazi." Authorities say the shootings might have been an act of "domestic terrorism." They believe Page acted alone.

Page was the leader of a racist white-power rock band, according to the SPLC. One of his band's album covers depicts a grotesque disembodied white arm punching an African-American man. The center, which investigates hate crimes, had tracked Page for years. Federal authorities said there was "no active investigation" into Page; he apparently hadn't done anything to get on their radar screen.

"That's one of the problems with cases like this," said Teresa Carlson, the special FBI agent in charge in Milwaukee. "People do need to be vigilant and look for suspicious behavior. We need the public's help."

There have long been people at the fringes of American society whose views are a disgrace to our values. Extreme ideas, even hate-filled ideas, are one price we pay for a free society. It's important for investigators to learn as much as possible about this man's movements, his motivations and his connections. His apparent ties to a dangerous current coursing at the edges of American society are troubling.

But even as we necessarily begin the task of trying to explain the unexplainable, we also must remember the victims.

-- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


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