OAK CREEK, Wis. — The gunman who killed worshipers at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin on Sunday had become deeply embedded in the white-supremacist music scene and was well known to anti-hate watchdog groups, one of which said it had been tracking the 40-year-old for more than a decade.
In 2000, Wade Michael Page, an Army veteran, sold everything he owned aside from his motorcycle and journeyed from Colorado, eventually settling in rural North Carolina. He joined prominent “white power” rock bands. And over time, he became frustrated with what he viewed as “people’s apathetic ways” and the lack of “strict discipline in our sick society,” according to an interview he conducted with his record label.
Although authorities have not revealed a motive for the shootings, law enforcement officials said Monday that they think Page acted alone when he opened fire at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in this Milwaukee suburb, killing six and wounding three others — including a police officer — before police fatally shot him.
The rampage, coming just two weeks after a mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., forced the nation to grapple with yet another incident of horrific violence, this one aimed at a religious group whose low-key profile in this country added to the mystery of the attack. The assault Sunday put a spotlight on a little-known but vibrant — and sometimes violent — music subculture, according to watchdog groups.
“There is a whole underworld out there of white supremacist music of which the public is almost entirely unaware,” said Mark Potok, senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which first flagged Page’s connection to hate groups in a blog post Monday. The group has been monitoring Page since 2000, when he began playing for bands with names such as Max Resist, Blue Eyed Devil and Intimidation One.
“This guy was in the thick of the white-supremacist music scene,” Potok said. “He was not a fringe player. He was well known in the scene and played in some of the best-known bands.”
The attack jolted Internet message boards trafficked by white supremacists, some of whom urged more, similar actions. SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors radical groups on the Web, reported Monday a flurry of activity on racist message boards, including one thread exhorting the community to “stop talking and start doing.”
Although there is no evidence that Page harbored specific resentment toward Sikhs, watchdog groups and Sikhs say it is likely that he confused the religion with Islam, because Sikh men wear beards and turbans.
Sikhism, a monotheistic religion founded more than 500 years ago in northern India, is the fifth-largest organized religion in the world. Followers, who revere a lineage of 10 gurus, have led a relatively peaceful existence in this country, although they have occasionally been the targets of violence since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Officials said Page served in the Army from 1992 to 1998, and was stationed at Fort Bliss in Texas and Fort Bragg in North Carolina. He worked as a missile-system repairman and then as a psychological operations specialist before being discharged because of a “pattern of misconduct.”
In 2000, the Colorado native hit the road with his backpack and motorcycle, he said in the 2010 interview with Maryland-based Label 56. His wanderings at one point led him to Georgia to attend “Hammerfest,” an annual white-power music festival that the Anti-Defamation League calls “a virtual Woodstock of hate rock.”
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