Sikhs return to Wis. temple after shooting
Members of the Sikh temple of Wisconsin wash items as they return for the first time in Oak Creek, Wis., Thursday, Aug 9, 2012. / AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps
(CBS/AP) MILWAUKEE - Sikhs are returning to a U.S. temple for the first time since the shootings that killed six worshippers and left three people critically wounded.
Inderjeet Singh Dhillon, a community leader at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, says the FBI returned the temple keys to members Thursday morning, allowing Sikh leaders and construction workers inside to repair bullet holes and other damage, clean up blood stands and repaint walls. Their goal is to reopen to everyone by Friday morning.
Temple leaders say they're planning a ceremony Friday to honor the six killed in Sunday's attack. The ceremony involves a series of priests reading their holy book aloud from cover to cover, which takes 48 hours.
The attack was carried by Wade Michael Page, a white supremacist who shot and killed himself during a shootout with police.
Wisconsin Sikh temple shooting
Sikh leaders said their community was emotional about reopening the temple.
"We are anxious to return, but we really have no option or control or choice," said Dr. Kulwant Singh Dhaliwal, one of the community leaders. "They will finish the investigation, then hand it over. It doesn't matter how we feel."
Dhaliwal's attitude is shared by many of his fellow Sikhs. They are devastated by the shooting, and instead of reacting with anger or resentment toward law enforcement officials, they have turned inward, supporting each other.
The funerals for the six victims are scheduled for Friday morning at a nearby high school. Afterward, temple leaders hope to begin the traditional rite called "akhand path," a ceremony that involves a series of priests reading their holy book aloud from cover to cover. The process takes 48 hours.
The leaders plan to sit down with Oak Creek police next week to discuss whether the temple should develop additional security measures. That might involve hiring security guards, but one thing that will not change is offering access to the temple for people of all faiths, Dhaliwal said.
"We will still have the four doors open," he said, a reference to the Sikh belief that temples should have one open door in each direction to symbolize that everyone is welcome.
The peace of the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin was shattered when Page, 40, opened fire with a 9 mm handgun and multiple magazines of ammunition.
In addition to the six dead, Page's attack wounded three people, including a responding police officer who was hit nine times in the parking lot. A second officer shot Page in the stomach from about 75 feet away. Page then killed himself with a bullet to the head.
Froedtert Hospital spokewoman Kathleen S. Sieja said Punjab Singh, 65, shot in the face, remained in critical condition Thursday afternoon. The condition of Santokh Singh, 50, who suffered a single gunshot wound that penetrated his chest, diaphragm, stomach and liver, has been upgraded to serious.
Oak Creek Police Officer Brian Murphy, who waved off aid from his colleagues so they could assist hurt worshipers, is recovering well, Sieja said. His condition was updated to Satisfactory.
While there is simmering anxiety over their lack of access to the temple, some Sikhs have said they're grateful that one FBI agent is himself a Sikh, who can advise investigators about religious sensitivities, such as securing the room where the temple's holy book is kept and where worshippers are not supposed to approach with their shoes on.
In the meantime, Singh said he is trying his best to compensate for the fact that the temple is off-limits. He drives as close as he can, bows his head in respect and pays homage to the departed souls that he believes still inhabit the building.
"I feel helpless not to be inside," he said. "I'm not angry, but I just wish there was something I can do to help."
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