Mourners honour Wisconsin Sikh temple victims


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The Independent US

Mourners began paying their final respects today to six worshippers gunned down by a white supremacist at a Sikh temple in the US almost a week ago for reasons that still aren't clear.

A day after members were allowed back into the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin for the first time since Sunday's attack, the country's top lawyer, US Attorney General Eric Holder, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker were scheduled to speak. Then a series of priests will read the Sikh holy book from cover to cover in a rite honoring the dead called "Akhand Path." It takes 48 hours.

"We want to pay homage to the spirits who are still in there," said Harpreet Singh, a nephew of one of the victims.

Hundreds of mourners, many of them Indian-American, milled through a school gymnasium to the sound of chanting as images of the victims were projected on a large screen.

Federal investigators might never know for certain why 40-year-old Wade Michael Page chose to attack strangers. The Army veteran opened fire with a 9 mm pistol, killing five men and one woman and injuring two other men.

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

Authorities say he ambushed the first police officer who responded, shooting him nine times. A second officer shot Page in the stomach, and Page killed himself with a shot to the head.

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

The others killed:

— 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 fun-loving and who enjoyed telling jokes.

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

The FBI roped off the temple for four days while agents conducted their investigation. They handed the keys back to Sikh leaders Thursday morning. Workers then spent the day cleaning up, repairing bullet damage, shampooing carpets and repainting walls to rid the temple of traces of the carnage.

As children played outside and women cooked an impromptu meal in the temple's kitchen, Amardeep Kaleka, the temple president's son, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that a more positive spirit existed after the temple was cleaned.