Wisconsin Killer Fed and Was Fueled by Hate-Driven Music

The New York Times/August 6, 2012

His music, Wade M. Page once said, was about "how the value of human life has been degraded by tyranny."

But on Sunday, Mr. Page, an Army veteran and a rock singer whose bands specialized in the lyrics of hate, coldly took the lives of six people and wounded three others when he opened fire with a 9-millimeter semiautomatic handgun in a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., the police said. Officers then shot him to death.

To some who track the movements of white supremacist groups, the violence was not a total surprise. Mr. Page, 40, had long been among the hundreds of names on the radar of organizations monitored by the Southern Poverty Law Center because of his ties to the white supremacist movement and his role as the leader of a white-power band called End Apathy. The authorities have said they are treating the shooting as an act of domestic terrorism.

In Oak Creek and in nearby Cudahy, Wis., south of Milwaukee, where Mr. Page lived in the days before the attack, the magnitude and the nature of what had happened were only beginning to sink in, grief competing with outrage. A company flew its flag at half-staff. A Christian minister offered his parishioners' help to a Sikh gathering at the Salvation Army.

At a news conference on Monday, Teresa Carlson, a special agent for the F.B.I., which is leading the investigation, said, "We don't have any reason to believe that there was anyone else" involved in the crime. Law enforcement officials said earlier on Monday they wanted to speak with a "person of interest" who was at the temple on Sunday, but by late afternoon they had ruled out any connection between him and the shooting.

Oak Creek's police chief, John Edwards, speaking at the news conference, identified the five men and one woman who died at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin: Sita Singh, 41; Ranjit Singh, 49; Prakash Singh, 39; Paramjit Kaur, 41; Suveg Singh, 84; and Satwant Singh Kaleka, 65, who was the center's president.

Peter Hoyt, 53, a neighbor of Mr. Page's in Cudahy who often stopped to chat with him during morning walks, said he was "stunned" that the man he had known could have done something so violent. Mr. Page, he said, told him that he had broken up with a girlfriend in early June.

"He didn't seem like he was visibly upset," Mr. Hoyt said about the breakup. "He didn't seem angry. He seemed more emotionally upset. He wasn't mad. He was hurt."

Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said Mr. Page had come to the center's attention a decade ago because of his affiliation with rock bands known for lyrics that push far past the boundaries of tolerance.

"The music that comes from these bands is incredibly violent, and it talks about murdering Jews, black people, gay people and a whole host of other enemies," Mr. Potok said. He added that in 2000, Mr. Page tried to buy unspecified goods from the National Alliance, which Mr. Potok described as a neo-Nazi organization that at the time was one of the country's best organized and best financed hate groups.

But Mr. Potok said the center had not passed any information about Mr. Page to law enforcement.

"We were not looking at this guy as anything special until today," he said. "He was one of thousands. We were just keeping an eye on him."

Although little known among music fans, a steady subculture of racist and anti-Semitic rock bands has existed on the margins of punk and heavy metal in Europe and the United States since at least the 1970s. Hate groups sometimes use some of the bands and their record labels for fund-raising and recruiting, according to the law center and the Anti-Defamation League.

In an interview posted on the Web site of the record company Label56, Mr. Page mentioned going to Hammerfest, an annual white-supremacist festival well known to civil rights advocates. He also said he played in various neo-Nazi bands, including Blue Eyed Devils, whose song "White Victory" includes the lines: "Now I'll fight for my race and nation/Sieg Heil!" The company removed the interview from its site on Monday.

Analysts for the F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security routinely monitor violent extremist Web sites of all kinds, including those attracting white supremacists, according to former officials of both agencies. But the department's work on the topic has been criticized. In 2009, conservatives in Congress strongly objected to a department report titled "Rightwing Extremism," which speculated that the recession and the election of a black president could increase the threat from white supremacists.

Janet Napolitano, the homeland security secretary, withdrew the report and apologized for what she called its flaws. Daryl Johnson, the homeland security analyst who was the primary author of the report, said last year that after the flap, the number of analysts assigned to track non-Islamic militancy had been reduced sharply. Homeland Security Department officials denied his assertion and said the department monitored violent extremism of every kind, without regard to its religious or political bent.

J. M. Berger, an author and analyst on counterterrorism who runs the Intelwire Web site, said Mr. Page "clearly had a history with the white supremacist movement." A song called "Welcome to the South" by Definite Hate, another band that Mr. Page played in and that Mr. Berger found online, refers to "our race war" and asks, "What has happened to America/That was once so white and free?" Mr. Berger said the lyrics and album art of Definite Hate echo the views and vocabulary of the Hammerskins, or Hammerskin Nation, a white supremacist group founded in Dallas in 1988.

According to the SITE Monitoring Service, which follows white supremacist trends, Mr. Page had an extensive presence on Hammerskin and other white nationalist Web sites, including Stormfront, where he favored the names of his bands as user names and "frequently included white supremacist symbolism" in his postings. He concluded one posting with "88," a number frequently used by neo-Nazis and skinheads to mean "Heil, Hitler," according to SITE. (H is the eighth letter of the alphabet.) He also used "14," the number of words in the rallying slogan of the white supremacist movement.

Although Mr. Hoyt, his neighbor, said Mr. Page had claimed that he enlisted in the Army after Sept. 11, Army records show that he separated from the military in 1998, completing his basic training at Fort Sill in Oklahoma and serving at Fort Bliss in El Paso and Fort Bragg in North Carolina. Listed as a psychological operations specialist, he was never deployed overseas, according to the records, although Mr. Hoyt said he had talked about combat.

"He said, 'You go there, and one minute you're with your buddies and the next minute you're dead,' " Mr. Hoyt recalled.

A source familiar with Mr. Page's military history, who had not been authorized to speak about the case, said Mr. Page had received an "other than honorable" discharge from the Army. Pentagon officials said Mr. Page had also been demoted, from sergeant to specialist, before leaving the service.

In June 1994, while he was at Fort Bliss, the El Paso police arrested Mr. Page and charged him with criminal mischief. He was intoxicated and playing pool at a bar called the Attic when he "began kicking large holes in the Sheetrock wall with his boots," said Renee Railey, a spokeswoman for the El Paso County district attorney.

Mr. Page pleaded guilty to the charge, a misdemeanor, and was sentenced to 90 days in jail, though he was allowed to fulfill the sentence through 180 days of probation. He paid $645 in fines and court costs, and was ordered to complete 24 hours of community service.

After leaving the Army, Mr. Page, a native of Colorado, lived for several years in North Carolina, where he owned a property that Wells Fargo foreclosed on in January. In a statement, the bank said that it had no dealings with Mr. Page other than routine notifications, and that the property was vacant when the foreclosure process began last August.

Mr. Page's former stepmother, Laura Page, 67, who divorced his father more than a decade ago, said that growing up, he was "a precious little boy, a very mellow and soft-spoken person."

In an interview in Denver, where she lives, Ms. Page said she had known her stepson since he was 10. As a child, she said, he worshiped the guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan. His aspirations and dreams centered on music.

"Wade, his father and me would go camping and fishing in Colorado and have just a wonderful time, and we would play games at home, like cards and Monopoly," Ms. Page said. "We just did the normal things that a family does."

For most of his childhood, Ms. Page said, Mr. Page lived in the Denver area with his mother, a dog groomer, but she died when he was 13 or 14, and "he took it very hard." He was not close to his father, she said, and moved in with a grandmother and an aunt who were also in Colorado. He enlisted in the military after graduating from high school.

"I can't imagine, I can't imagine what made him do this," Ms. Page said.

While residents in Oak Creek struggled to understand, the three wounded victims were struggling to survive. Among them was Lt. Brian Murphy, the first officer to arrive at the temple after 911 calls began flooding the Oak Creek Police Department at 10:25 on Sunday morning.

Lieutenant Murphy, 51, took in the scene and then stopped to tend to a wounded victim in the parking lot. When he looked up, an armed man was standing over him. The gunman fired eight or nine shots at close range, striking Lieutenant Murphy in the neck, Chief Edwards said. But when other officers rushed to help him, he waved them on — the victims in the temple came first.

Reporting was contributed by Jack Begg, James Dao, Dirk Johnson, Jennifer Preston, John Schwartz, Scott Shane, Thom Shanker, Ben Sisario and Steven Yaccino.

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