Satwant Singh Kaleka, the president of the Sikh temple of Wisconsin where 40-year-old Wade Michael Page opened fire on Sunday, gave his own life to protect members of the congregation. Sixty-five-year-old Kaleka had little time to act when Page burst into the Oak Creek temple with a 9mm handgun and several magazines, so he grabbed what the Raw Story described as a nearby "blunt ceremonial knife." Kaleka attempted to stab Page before Page shot him twice in the hip or upper leg, his son Amardeep Kaleka said. But the brief conflict allowed women preparing food and children attending Sunday school downstairs to take shelter from the shooter's rampage in a pantry.
"Your dad's a hero," Amardeep Kaleka said FBI agents told him Sunday. The elder Kaleka and six others died in the Sunday massacre, including Page.
Details of Page's background continue to emerge in the wake of the shooting. Discharged from the Army in 1998 after a demotion, Page has been connected to what civil rights groups term "two racist skinhead bands" — End Apathy and Definite Hate, according to the Los Angeles Times. The Times adds that Page was also believed to have been a member of a national white supremacist group called the Hammerskins. Federal investigators had actually "looked at" Page "more than once" because of his connection to extremists and because he might have helped fund a domestic terrorist group; however, officials did not have enough evidence to open an investigation, according to a U.S. law enforcement official.
Police in New York have boosted their presence at Sikh temples in response to the attack. "Since the incident happened yesterday, the NYPD came right over here and go over to all our other temples and we feel safe, we feel the confidence in our NYPD," Gurdev Singh Kang, president of the Sikh Cultural Society in Richmond Hill, Queens, told NBC New York. "I appeal to our whole Sikh community, be peaceful."
Police have yet to determine Page's specific motive for his attack on the temple that Satwant Singh Kaleka devoted his life to building.
“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 — a dark void,” said Kaleka's son Amandeep. “I feel a lot of sadness towards that individual … I’m not going to replace it with anger.”