Everyone likes to feel safe and that those multiple shootings that occur in other places won't happen around where we live. That just ended for those of us who live in the Milwaukee area. And the gunman is not only unknown, but not in custody.
We don't know how many victims there are, but the first 2 have already arrived at the areas major trauma center at Froedert Hospital. Lines of ambulances and paramedics are seen arriving and leaving the scene in our local continuing coverage. There are still people inside the building who are awaiting evacuation. It is unknown whether the gunman is still in the building holding hostages.
I'll be updating as information becomes available, but you can get some information here.
The shooting occurred inside the Sikh Temple during Sunday services. The temple, located in Oak Creek, a suburb in the southeastern portion of Milwaukee County, had hundreds of people inside. Children were taken to the basement when the shooting began. Few facts are available now. Information is slowly coming from people who either left the building or have been evacuated by law enforcement.
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. (Update from law enforcement: Only 1 shooter who was fatally shot in an exchange of gunfire with the first responding police officer).(Update in bold is my addition to the information from the original MJS article)
And the head priest was locked inside a restroom with a cell phone and that there were as many as 20 to 30 victims.
Oak Creek police were not giving out any information at this point.
Multiple law enforcement agencies have responded to the situation including the Milwaukee County Sheriffs Department and the FBI.
As a precautionary measure, Brookfield police have established a presence at the other area Sikh Temple located in Waukesha County.
At 12:44 PM CDT, Froedert Hospital confirmed that they have 2 of the victims. One is listed in critical condition and the other remains under evaluation in the Emergency Department.
One of the temple's committee members, Ven Boba Ri, said that based on communication with people inside the temple, the shooter was a white male in his 30s.12:52 PM CDT. Most of the temple members who are being interviewed are immigrants from India. Information from eyewitnesses is coming out, but there is still no official information from law enforcement.
"We have no idea," he said of the motive. "It's pretty much a hate crime. It's not an insider."
According to Ri, the man started shooting after he walked up to a priest who was standing outside, and shot him.
Then he went inside and started shooting.
"It's sad, I don't know how to describe it," said Ri (Ven Boba Ri, a temple committee member) who has been fielding calls all morning from around the world, including India.(information in italics is mine for clarification)
"Sikhism is such a peaceful religion. We have suffered for generations, in India and even here."
"We're all the same. Everybody has the same blood," said temple member Jaswinder Schandock.
11:00 AM PT: Brad Wentlandt, Police Chief of the City of Greenfield is making a statement. He'll be the public information officer for the incident. He is asking media for their cooperation in not releasing pictures, video, or arial photography as well as not reporting on police or vehicle movements.
He says that an officer arrived at 10:25 AM in response to an unintelligible 911 call, engaged a shooter, and was shot multiple times. The officer has been conveyed to the hospital and is expected to survive. He described the shooter as "down at the scene".
Tactical operations are ongoing. There is no victim count as yet.
Multiple law enforcement agencies and tactical units are on scene.
That was the brief account he gave.
1:01 PM CDT: There is not victim count, no information on the number of shooters, and media has quickly pivoted their live video feed away from the temple building and much of the surrounding area as requested by the public information office as above.
The Medical Examiners Office has not yet been contacted regarding any fatalities.
Froedert Hospital is now reporting 3 shooting victims, all in critical condition, are being treated.
1:08 PM: Just a bit of tidying up of the diary to separate the updates and move all the updates to below the fold. I hope this makes it more legible. This is a chaotic developing situation.
It is now being reported that a childs birthday party was occuring in the building and that there are still children inside the building.
1:15 PM: This is not the first time there has been a church shooting in our area. In 2005 we had a shooting during a church service held in a local hotel.
1:19 PM: Area Assembly Rep. Josh Zepnik (D-South Milwaukee) is being interviewed. He came to the Temple after hearing about the shooting to offer whatever help and support he could give. He is speaking about the wonderful people at the temple, their extensive services to the community, their promotion of peace and understanding, and his close relationship to the members of the Temple.
As a personal aside, I did phone banking for his and other assembly primary races this past week.
1:25 PM CDT: Update from Froedert Hospital. They are treating 3 male victimes. One victim is in surgery, another is in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit, and a third is being evaluated in the Emergency Department.
There is an additional report that a nearby Mosque is being guarded by Greenfield Police. There is no information as to why that is being done.
Eyewitnesses are describing the shooter as a white male and not a member of the Temple community.
11:47 AM PT: 2nd official briefing from Greenflield Police Chief Brad Wentlandt, public information officer for the incident.
First offce on the scene was a 20 year veteran Oak Creek police officer and is being treated for gunshot wounds. The shooter is deceased and remains on the scene.
There are 4 deceased inside of the temple and 4 deceased outside of the temple.
At this time, there is only 1 shooter that police have identified. Earlier rumors of multiple gunmen were untrue.
2:04 PM CDT: Continuing eyewitness reports of the chaos inside and the selfless nature of temple members who were calling others on their cell phones to warn them not to come to the Temple while they were running for their lives. How incredible for people to be so concerned about others to put their safety at the same high priority as their own lives. It says a lot.
2:20 PM CDT: Law enforcement are continuing interviews of the many witnesses to the shootings. There still isn't much of a timeline of the event.
Sikh Temple leaders are now being interviewed. They say that all the women and children have been evacuated from the building and have been taken to a nearby bowling alley. No children were injured. Many women were in the kitchen preparing lunch for the community at the time of the shooting.
They Temple leaders are now preparing to go to the hospital to visit those wounded and their families.
They are unsure if any civilians remain in the building, however there are still law enforcement personnel and tactical units inside the building.
2:37 PM CDT: Childrens Hospital has confirmed that they received no children injured from the shooting. Froedert Hospital will have a press conference in about an hour.
Gov. Scott Walker has issued the typical official statement offering thoughts and prayers.
No further ambulances or paramedic units have arrived which may indicate that all victims have now been found.
3:00 PM CTD: An updated article is now available indicating that one shooting victim is being treated at a nearby hospital.
Tactical units and police dogs are now out of the building which indicates that the temple area is now considered secured. Police are now running the license plates of all the vehicles in the parking lot, perhaps looking for a car belonging to the shooter who has yet to be publically identified.
The next update from the public information office on the scene will be at 3:30 PM local time.
1:31 PM PT: Press Conference scheduled for 3:30 PM is being moved to 4 PM. There is also a news conference scheduled at Froedert Hospital at that time.
3:32 PM CDT: If you have friends or families who were part of this community, there is a hotline available. (888) 298-1964. This is for family and friends of Temple community members only.
On air reporters are saying that they are frequently offered food and drink from members of the community. OMG, in the midst of this horror that is affecting them, they're concerned about the wellbeing of reporters and law enforcement officials. Says a lot about these folks.
The website for the Sikh Temple is here.
3:44PM CDT: Police are now searching a red pickup truck in the Temple parking lot. Earlier it was reported that police were running the licenses of all vehicles in the parking lot.
3:54 PM: The FBI is now the "in charge" law enforcement agency according to news reports.
It's now being reported that one of the injured men being treated at Froedert Hospital is a visiting religious leader from India.
The Froedert Hospital news conference has been rescheduled to follow the 4 PM law enforcement news conference.
2:22 PM PT: Law Enforcement News Conference:
John Chisholm, Milwaukee County District attorney is part of the law enforcement group that is assembling. Also Chief Edwards from the Oak Creek Police Department, the Oak Creek Mayor, Oak Creek Fire Chief, a Sheriffs department inspector, special agent from the ATF, special agent from the FBI.
Oak Creek Police Chief spoke first. One responding officer was attending to a victim that was found and another officer was confronted by the gunman and fatally shot him, despite receiving multiple gunshot wounds. They are not releasing any information on the victims until notifications have been made. They are not releasing information on the shooter at this time. He did confirm that everyone has been removed from the building.
It took a lot of time to clear the building because there were reports of multiple gunmen and they had to proceed carefully to ensure that there were no further injuries.
The Oak Creek Mayor said that the city is outraged at this violence and went on to praise the actions of their officers.
Chief Wentlandt said that the tactical units have stood down, that crime scene investigators will be arriving shortly, and the Medical Examiners office will be coming in. This process will take many hours. The entire scene will be secured until the investigation is completed.
This shooting is being investigated as domestic terrorism.
There will be no further information from law enforcement until 10 AM tomorrow.
2:29 PM PT: Froedert Hospital News Conference:
The Chief Medical Officer reports they received 3 adult males with gunshot wounds one of whom was an Oak Creek police officer. All 3 are in critical condition. One had wounds to the abdomen and chest, another with wounds to the face and extremities, and a third with wounds to the neck.
2 have already had surgery and another is undergoing a "complex procedure".
There will be an update at 8:30 PM.
No questions were taken.
Information on the Sikh Faith: There's a tiny article which briefly describes the Sikh faith:
The dead and mourning in Milwaukee's Sikh community are adherents of a 500-year-old faith that believes in a single God of all creation and stresses prayer, the equality of all mankind, hard work and giving back to the community.Having watched multiple interviews of members of the Temple, I can only say that they are composed, peaceful, and speak of hatred and anger being foreign concepts to them.
"It is such a peaceful religion," said Ben Bora Ri, one of the leaders of the Oak Creek temple where seven people were killed this morning.
Founded in the Punjab region between Pakistan and India in the 15th century, Sikhism draws on the teachings of Bhakti Hinduism and Muslim Sufis. But it is a distinct religion separate from the two. The faith is based on the teachings of the 10 Gurus collected in the Sikh Holy Book.
5:24 PM: Law enforcement is now searching the home of the gunman, a Cudahy (nearby) resident. They have evacuated neighbors of the home in case, like the Aurora gunman, the residence was booby trapped.
This is likely to be the last update since there will be no further official updates until 10 AM from law enforcement and 8:30 PM tonight for the update from the hospital.
3:41 PM PT: Confirmation now that 2 priests of the temple are among the fatalities.
5:56 PM: In an article from the Indian press:
Indian Minorities Advocacy Network and Muslim Peace Coalition USA condemned the heinous attack. Shaik Ubaid, a founding member of ImanNet, urged mosques and temples to ask for extra police protection. “The campaign of hatemongering against the religious minorities and immigrants that is being supported by some mainstream politicians has endangered all Americans,” he said.
In response to the shooting, the police in New York said that security was being increased at gurdwaras in the city. “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,” the New York police said in a statement.
(Sikh temples are called gurdwaras)
4:48 PM PT: Im going to take a break for a bit to rest my eyes and brain and emotions. I've been reporting on this for hours and need to take a bit of time to mourn. I'll be back later.