Slain Sikh temple leader built a life in America after arriving with nothing

(CBS News) OAK CREEK, Wisconsin - One of the victims of the Wisconsin Sikh temple shooting was the leader of the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, Satwant Kalecka. He had come to this country with almost nothing and had built his own version of the American Dream.

His wife, Sathpaul, and other women were cooking inside the temple's kitchen when the shooting began Sunday.

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"I (was) just screaming, screaming, and the shots fired," Sathpaul told CBS News.

Satwant Kalecka, the president of the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, was one of the victims who was brutally gunned down during the Sikh temple shooting in Oak Park, Wisc., Aug. 5, 2012.
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She was worried about her husband, the 65-year-old president of the temple. He had just started his morning prayers in another room.

"Standing there, all the girls with me, I said, 'Pray for my husband,'" she said.

As they huddled in the pantry, she made several quick calls to her son, Amardeep.

"(She said,) 'There is a gunman here. He's firing on us.' Click," Amardeep recalled. "Later it was another phone call saying, 'Where is everybody? Nobody is coming to help us.' Click. Then, the next one was, 'How's your father doing? Where's your father?' Click."

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When Amardeep arrived at the temple, he found out his father was dead. The family says Satwant tried to take down the gunman with a ceremonial knife, but he was shot twice.

"It doesn't make sense," Sathpaul sobbed. "No make sense."

Today, the family mourned the loss of a father and grandfather, a man who came to the United States in 1982 with just $35, according to his son.

Sikh temple shooting victim Satwant Kalecka worked at a gas station and other jobs, eventually saving money to open his own temple.
CBS
"He started at a gas station. He was the guy who wore the turban and the beard no matter what in the gas station," Amardeep said.

Satwant eventually started buying and renting property, using the money to build his dream. Eventually, he built a temple for the nearly 400 families in the local Sikh community.

"He said, 'God has a thing for me. I want to build this temple,'" Amardeep explained. "And, it's the temple that he built."

He also put up a tribute to his adopted country in his front yard -- an American flag. The flag now flies at half-staff in his memory.

Sadly, today was a day that his family had been looking forward to for months. They planned to break ground on a new house in the Milwaukee area. The family says those plans are now on hold.

  • Ben Tracy

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