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Sikh temple shooting mourners honor victims at memorial

Friday, August 10, 2012

Mourners gathered Friday to remember the six people who were killed in a shooting rampage at a Wisconsin Sikh temple last Sunday.

Thousands of people packed the Oak Creek High School gymnasium, one of the largest facilities in the suburban Milwaukee town.

Somber, tearful mourners, most wearing scarves on their heads in the Sikh tradition, greeted victims' family members with hugs at the gymnasium. Six open caskets were arranged inside the gym, with flowers adorning the bodies. A large video screen flashed photos of those killed and injured.

The service included prayers, hymns and Attorney General Eric Holder spoke, telling the community that America is rallying around them in support.

Holder said the shooting rampage was not only an attack on the Sikh community, but an attack on the values of America itself. He said the Sikh community has inspired the country with its compassionate response to evil.

Private cremation was expected to follow for the families and friends of the victims.

After the service, mourners planned to return to the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, the site of the shooting, where priests will read the Sikh holy book from cover to cover in a traditional rite honoring the dead called "Akhand Path." That process takes 48 hours.

A gunman with white supremacist ties barged in to the temple last Sunday just before service and opened fire at a crowd of worshippers. Federal investigators may never know why 40-year-old Wade Michael Page chose to attack strangers in a holy place.

Page killed five men and one woman and injured two other men. Investigators said he then ambushed the first police officer who responded, shooting him nine times and leaving him in critical condition. A second officer then shot Page, and then Page took his own life with a shot to the head.

The officer who was injured, Oak Creek Police Lt. Brian Murphy, was upgraded Thursday to satisfactory condition.

The dead included Satwant Singh Kaleka, 65, the temple president who was shot as he tried to fend off Page with a butter knife.

The other victims included:

- Ranjit Singh, 49, and his 41-year-old brother, Sita Singh, two priests whose families were back in India and whose lives in America revolved around their faith;

- Suveg Singh Khattra, 84, a former farmer in India who was a constant presence at the temple;

- Prakash Singh, 39, a priest who was remembered as a fun-loving personality who enjoyed telling jokes;

- Paramjit Kaur, 41 who worked 66 hours a week to provide for her family, but also found time to pray every day for at least an hour.

The FBI closed off the temple for days while agents conducted their investigation. They handed the keys back to Sikh leaders on Thursday.

See photos from the scene of the shooting

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

(Copyright ©2014 KABC-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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