Wisconsin gurdwara opens again for public

New York/Washington: Six days after a deadly shooting struck an Oak Creek gurdwara, the shrine today opened its gates again to the public, with over 100 community members returning to clean it ahead of the funeral for the victims.

The gurdwara in Oak Creek in Wisconsin state – where a `neo-nazi` ex-army veteran went on a shooting spree killing six Sikhs on Sunday before dying of a self-inflicted gun shot wound – "is now open for the public," Jagajit Singh Sandhu, a member of the temple committee, told PTI.

"We expect the cleaning to be over soon, but it is open for the public now," Singh said, as men re-painted the walls of the gurdwara and cleaned its carpets, while women gathered again in the kitchen to prepare the first communal meal after the shooting rampage by Wade Michael Page.

The local police handed over the Oak Creek gurdwara to its management, which immediately started the cleaning of the entire premises.

Amardeep Kaleka, whose father Satwant Singh was one of the six persons killed by Page, said blood stains and bullet marks from the massacre inside the gurdwara were still visible as people entered it.

"I`m going to get graphic here. The blood was still there, the bullet holes were still there, the spirit was still there – haunted," Kaleka was quoted as saying by the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel.

Kaleka said a more positive feel emanated from the temple after it was cleaned.

Page was wounded when a police officer shot him in the stomach but the FBI said he subsequently died from a self-inflicted gun shot wound to the head.

Three people, including a police officer, were critically injured in the shooting. Four of the six dead in the rampage were Indian nationals.

The temple management has announced that it would hold "wake and visitation" at a city high school, which is expected to be attended by thousands of people, including Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.

The condition of Oak Creek Police officer Brian Murphy, 51, who was shot eight to nine times by Page, was described as satisfactory.

Santokh Singh, 50, who was critically injured, remained in serious condition. Singh had to undergo two surgeries for a gun shot wound that penetrated his chest, diaphragm, stomach and liver.

Punjab Singh, 65, remained critical as he had suffered a single gunshot wound to the face that caused facial fractures and damage to his right carotid and vertebral artery.

Inside the gurdwara, people held a special service for peace and chanted the holy scriptures.

The people huddled in small groups, while women embraced one another, their eyes still red with tears. The funeral service is expected to draw thousands of mourners, including some from India.

Representatives from each of the victims` families are expected to speak along with US Attorney General Eric Holder, who has been deputed by the Obama Administration for the memorial service which would also be attended by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

The community struggled to come to terms with the loss and pain of the shooting. "Nobody could ever imagine a tragedy of this scale, let alone prepare for it," said Kulwant Dhaliwal, a representative of the Oak Creek Sikh temple.

A remembrance service was also held yesterday in the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee which drew nearly 200 people.