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Temple shootings: Cop and Sikh leader confronted gunman

August 06, 2012|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske and Dan Hinkel

OAK CREEK, Wis. -- Brian Murphy, the police lieutenant who was the first on the scene at the Sikh temple shooting, faced a fusillade and remains in the surgical intensive care unit in critical condition, hospital officials said Monday.

Murphy was one of three people critically wounded after the attack, blamed on Wade Michael Page, 40. Authorities said that Page killed six worshipers and was killed by police outside the temple.

At an earlier news conference, Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards described Murphy’s arrival at the scene to help and the attack by Page, who fired a handgun eight or nine times at the officer before another officer killed the gunman. Surgeons from Froedtert Hospital declined to discuss the specifics of the wounded officer's condition.

PHOTOS: Gunman opened fire at Sikh temple

“He clearly was in a blaze of gunfire,” Dr. Gary Seabrook, director of surgical services, told reporters.

A second victim, Santokh Singh, 50, also was in critical condition. A bullet hit him in the front of his abdomen and then passed through his stomach, diaphragm and chest cavity before lodging near his lung, Seabrook said.

“Bullets tend to wander inside the human body,” Seabrook said.

Doctors did not discuss the condition of a third surviving victim, nor did officials identify him. According to other reports, he was believed to have been shot through the side.

While a mass shooting is unusual, hospital doctors lamented that gun violence is common in Milwaukee, as in other U.S. cities.

“We saw three here yesterday,” said Dr. Travis Webb, a trauma surgeon. “It is not uncommon for us to see three on a nightly basis due to senseless violence.”

When he was shot, Murphy, 51, a former leader of the tactical team, urged his fellow officers to concentrate on securing the temple area and not worry about him, said Edwards who praised his officers for their heroic actions.

At his news conference, Edwards turned to a representative of the Sikh community to read the names of the dead. Among the most prominent was Satwant Kaleka, 62, one of the founders of the temple and its current president.

When Kaleka heard gunshots, he “grabbed the nearest knife” and ran toward the sound in the temple lobby. “He tried to tackle the gunman,” his son, Amardeep, said he was told by FBI investigators.

It was not clear whether Kaleka wounded the assailant, his son said, but investigators said that at the least “he slowed him down.”

 “He did his best to protect this temple. This was like his child,” Amardeep Kaleka said of his father.

Another victim was Parkash Singh, 39. He came to the United States from northern India nine years ago and had been working at the temple as a priest, worshipers said.

Singh had been waiting to get his green card so that he could move his wife and three children to Oak Creek, according to Inderjeet Singh, the temple speaker and secretary, who is no relation to the shooting victim. Singh, which means lion, is a common name among Sikh males.

He said Singh lived at the temple and had just had a visit from his wife and children about a month ago.

Singh was known for helping in the temple kitchen and being attentive, he said.

“He never forgot to make a cup of tea for everybody,” he said, calling Singh “a very religious guy, a very honest person, dedicated every day to his job.”

He said another victim, Suveg Singh, 84, spent a lot of time at the temple, where he was respected as an elder.

“I would always touch his knee as a sign of respect and he would give me a blessing,” Singh said.

He said the elder Singh, also no relation, was at the temple Sunday with his daughter-in-law, who was not injured in the shooting. Singh was shot in the front doorway with another man, he said.

Also listed among the dead were two men -- Sita Singh, 41, and Ranjit Singh, 49 -- and a woman, Paramjit Kaur, 41.


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