OAK CREEK, Wis. – Before he strode into a Sikh temple with a 9 mm handgun and multiple magazines of ammunition, Wade Michael Page played in white supremacist heavy metal bands with names such as Definite Hate and End Apathy.
The bald, heavily tattooed bassist was a 40-year-old Army veteran who trained in psychological warfare before he was demoted and discharged more than a decade ago.
A day after he killed six worshippers at the suburban Milwaukee temple, fragments of Page’s life emerged in public records and interviews. But his motive was still largely a mystery. So far, no hate-filled manifesto has emerged, nor any angry blog or ranting Facebook entries to explain the attack.
Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards suggested Monday that investigators might never know for certain why the lone attacker targeted a temple full of strangers.
“We have a lot of information to decipher, to put it all together before we can positively tell you what that motive is – if we can determine that,” Edwards said.
Page, who was shot to death by police, joined the Army in 1992 and was discharged in 1998. He was described Monday by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a “frustrated neo-Nazi” who had long been active in the obscure underworld of white supremacist music.
Page wrote frequently on white supremacist websites, describing himself as a member of the “Hammerskins Nation,” a skinhead group rooted in Texas, according to the SITE Monitoring Service, a Maryland-based private intelligence firm that searches the Internet for terrorist and other extremist activity.
In online forums, Page promoted his music while interacting with other skinheads. He posted 250 messages on one site between March 2010 and the middle of this year, and he appeared eager to recruit others. In March 2011, he advertised for a barbeque in North Carolina, exhorting those online to attend.
“If you are wanting to meet people, get involved and become active, then you really need to attend,” he wrote, according to SITE. “Stop hiding behind the computer or making excuses.”
Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the law center, a nonprofit civil rights organization in Montgomery, Ala., said Page played in groups whose names seemed to “reflect what he went out and actually did.” The music talked about genocide against minorities.
In a 2010 interview, Page told a white supremacist website that he became active in white-power music in 2000, when he left his native Colorado and started the band End Apathy in 2005. The band’s MySpace page listed the group as based in Nashville, N.C.
Page joined the military in Milwaukee in 1992 and was a repairman for the Hawk missile system before switching jobs to become one of the Army’s psychological operations specialists assigned to a battalion at Fort Bragg, N.C.
He never deployed overseas in that role, Army spokesman George Wright said.
Page was demoted in June 1998 for getting drunk while on duty and going AWOL, two defense officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release information about the gunman.
The FBI was leading the investigation because the shooting was considered domestic terrorism. The agency said it had no reason to believe anyone other than Page was involved.
Page entered the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin as several dozen people prepared for Sunday services. He opened fire without saying a word.
The president of the temple died defending the house of worship he founded.
Satwant Singh Kaleka, 65, managed to find a simple butter knife in the temple and attempted to stab the gunman before being shot twice, his son said Monday.
Amardeep Singh Kaleka said FBI agents hugged him, shook his hand and told him his father was a hero.
“Whatever time he spent in that struggle gave the women time to get cover” in the kitchen, Kaleka said.
Federal officials said the gun used in the attack had been legally purchased. Page was issued five pistol-purchase permits in 2008 in North Carolina, paying $5 for each.
On Sunday, the first officer to respond was shot eight to nine times as he tended to a victim outside the temple. A second officer then exchanged gunfire with the suspect, who was fatally shot.
The six dead ranged in age from 39 to 84 years old. Three people were critically wounded, including the police officer.