Milwaukee Shooting at Sikh Temple in Wisconsin Amplifies Gun and Hate Crime Fears

News reports from Oak Creek, Wisconsin confirm that a shooting and hostage situation is ongoing in a 400 member Sikh temple that has been a part of the community since 1997. Oak Creek is a small community of approximately 28,000 located south of Milwaukee. At least three victims have been transported to the local Level 1 trauma center, Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee, with reports that there are between 8 and 20 additional victims, including a police officer and three priests. 

The gunman or gunmen are unknown. A local police officer engaged in a gun battle with at least one gunman, and was shot multiple times, but is expected to survive. The gunman was "put down" by the officer, according to nearby city of Greenfield police chief Bradley Wentlandt. The first call regarding the incident was received by the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Department at 10:26 a.m. CT.

Sukwindar Nagr, a local temple member, was outside the building when the shooting broke out. He called his brother-in-law's cell phone, which was answered by one of the priests, who told him that that his brother-in-law had been shot. Women and children inside the temple were hiding in closets, Mr. Nagr learned, and the priest urged him to call an ambulance. 

According to the United Sikh organization, there are between 500,000 and 1 million Sikhs in the United States. Sikhism is the 5th largest religion in the world, with 25 million members. The religion was founded based on the teachings of Guru Nanak in India around 1500, and Sikhs now live in nearly every country in the world. Since 2001, Sikhs in the United States have experienced hate-related crimes, as some people confuse the turbans and long beards that are part of their religious observance with Islamic extremists. The turban is one of four symbols of faith worn by Sikhs, which contains their hair, which must be kept intact after they complete the Amrit ceremony of rebirth.

Sikhism is a monotheistic spiritual tradition that was founded as a reaction against Hindu philosophy and lifestyle. It is not based on Christianity or Islam.