Thursday 14 November 2019

Knife-wielding Sikh a hero for saving people from neo-Nazi

The president of the temple, Sadwant Kaleka, was shot by Wade Michael Page as he tried to tackle him to the floor with a knife Photo: AP
The president of the temple, Sadwant Kaleka, was shot by Wade Michael Page as he tried to tackle him to the floor with a knife Photo: AP

Mark Hughes in New York

A SIKH hero sacrificed his own life by fighting off a neo-Nazi gunman with a blunt ceremonial knife to save dozens of women, children and other worshippers from being shot.

The head of the Wisconsin temple, Sadwant Singh Kaleka (65), did not last long before he was gunned down by the racist killer but his heroism has been praised for giving vital time so other Sikhs could flee or hide.

Mr Kaleka tried to stab Wade Michael Page, the white supremacist gunman, before being shot twice and dying of his injuries during the Sunday morning attack on the Sikh temple he had dedicated his life to.

Amardeep Singh Kaleka, his son, said on Monday at a vigil outside the temple that FBI agents had embraced him after the attack, in which six people were mudered, shook his hand and said, "Your dad's a hero."

"Whatever time he spent in that struggle gave the women time to get cover," said Kaleka.

"He was a hero through and through. There couldn't have been a better place for him to lay to rest."

One of the women who had time to flee was Amardeep's mother, who called the police using her mobile while hiding from Page in a cupboard.

Relatives said Mr Kaleka was widely regarded as the founder of the Oak Creek temple that was attacked by Page, a disgraced former US army soldier and racist, who is widely thought to have mistaken bearded and turban-wearing Sikhs for Muslims.

Mr Kaleka's resistance slowed the attacker just long enough for the women preparing the temple's traditional post-worship afternoon meal to hide in a pantry and for the children attending Sunday school downstairs to escape the massacre.

Ambush

The gunman had already shot at least one person in the temple's car park. He then went on to kill six Sikh worshippers -- including Sadwant Singh Kaleka -- before going back outside to ambush the police when he heard approaching sirens.

He was then "put down" in a gunfight after severely wounding one police officer.

Mr Kaleka and his family came to the United States from India in 1982. He built a successful business, and devoted every extra dollar he earned into building the Oak Creek temple.

Parishioners described him as the kind of man who, if you called him at two in the morning to say a light had gone out at the temple, would be there at 2:15 am to change the bulb.

"As I saw the picture of the man who took away my father's life -- you look at his face and it's full of hollow emptiness," Amandeep Kaleka said after police released the photo of Wade. "I feel a lot of sadness towards that individual. I'm not going to replace it with anger."

In stark contrast, Page (40) was a disgraced soldier, in the army from 1992 to 1998, before being discharged for a "pattern" of misconduct including drunkenness and going AWOL.

Pictures show him heavily tattooed. Neighbours said he had a tattoo commemorating the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on his right arm, a common indicator of far-Right and anti-Muslim affiliations.

On Monday, the police said they were seeking a second "person of interest". Officers want to speak to a man who was seen filming groups of Sikhs outside the temple after the attack. The man was captured on film by local news media and he too has a "9/11/01" tattoo on his upper right arm.

Wade shot dead six people and injured three others, including a police officer, before he was shot dead by armed police.

Officially no motive has been disclosed, but yesterday it emerged that Page, whose name was released by US Attorney James A Santelle, is a former army officer who fronted a neo-Nazi white supremacist band. (©Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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