Update: August 6, 2012, 4:50 PM
An Army veteran with possible ties to white supremacist groups was identified on Monday morning as the tattooed gunman who opened fire a day earlier at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, killing six people before being shot to death by a police officer.
Authorities said they believe Wade Michael Page, 40, acted alone in the massacre. A man who was described as a “person of interest” in the case was located and quickly ruled out on Monday, according to FBI spokesman Leonard Peace.
“He looked suspicious and so we wanted to talk to him,” Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards said at a morning news conference. “He left the scene before anyone could question him.”
About 24 hours after the massacre, a few details were starting to emerge about the man who allegedly carried out what was being called a “possible act of domestic terrorism.” He had only lived in the Milwaukee area a short time and officials from both the FBI and local police said he was never on their radar as someone capable of such violence.
“Nobody knew that this guy was a threat,” Teresa Carlson, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Milwaukee office, said. “That’s the problem with these types of cases.”
It was still unclear what Page did for a living or what brought him to Wisconsin. He served more than six years in the Army but left in 1998. Reports of what he did after that are spotty.
Person of Interest / FBI
Army spokeswoman Lt. Col. Lisa Garcia told TPM that Page was a decorated veteran who specialized in psychological operations, or PsyOps. The job description was to help U.S. commanders overseas “communicate information to large audiences,” she said.
Page joined the Army in April 1992 and initially trained at Fort Sill, Okla. He then spent time at Fort Bliss, Texas before finishing out his military career at Fort Bragg, N.C. He was never deployed overseas and left the Army in October 1998.
Page received numerous medals and decorations during his service, Garcia said, including the Army Commendation Medal, the National Defense Service Medal and the Humanitarian Service Medal.
Garcia did not know how Page left the Army, but the Oak Creek police chief said their investigation had found that he received “a general discharge and he was ineligible for reenlistment.”
Authorities declined to detail Page’s suspected ties to white supremacist groups, saying that the investigation was still ongoing. However, two groups that track extremist activities, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League, said on Monday that he was the leader of a white power rock band called End Apathy while he was living in North Carolina.
The band said on its MySpace page that it began in 2005 and described the music as a “sad commentary on our sick society and the problems that prevent true progress.” Photos on the page showed the band playing in front of swastika flags.
The SPLC said Page tried to purchase goods from the National Alliance, a neo-Nazi organization, as early as 2000. The ADL said he sometimes went by the pseudonym “Jack Boot” and was a prospective member of the Hammerskins skinhead organization in 2011.
Nick Martin is an associate editor at TPM in New York City. He came to the site in 2011 as a reporter for TPMMuckraker. Previously, he worked in Arizona, first as a staff reporter for a local newspaper and later as a freelance journalist. He also ran the news blog Heat City. Contact him: nick [at] talkingpointsmemo.com