Sikh Temple Killer Wade Michael Page Was Radicalized by Army Base's "Thriving Neo-Nazi Underworld"
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No one knows what drove Wade Michael Page to walk into the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin on a Sunday morning last August and start shooting worshippers with a 9 mm handgun. Maybe the 40-year-old white power musician believed he was killing Muslims, a group he despised because of the 9/11 attacks by radical Islamists.
He didn’t live to talk about it, though, and left no manifesto like the one written by the Muslim-hating Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik last year.
But while his motive may never be known, the details of his life suggest that the path toward his final act began at a U.S Army base that was home to a thriving neo-Nazi underworld during the time Page was stationed there in the mid-1990s.
Page’s journey down that path took him deep into the world of hate music and, more recently, into the “patched” membership ranks of a violent skinhead crew. It ended on Aug. 5 in the Milwaukee suburb of Oak Creek, where he murdered six Sikhs, including the temple’s president and three priests, and wounded four other people. Lt. Brian Murphy, the first police officer to confront Page at the scene, survived the encounter but was shot in the throat and hit by eight more bullets when he came to the aid of Page’s victims. Page was finally felled by an officer’s rifle shot to the stomach as he stood firing in the temple’s parking lot; Page then put his pistol to his own head and fired.
Page’s attack, which prompted a September congressional hearing on hate crimes chaired by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), was only the latest domestic terrorist attack in a wave that began with the election of President Obama in late 2008. Violence and conspiracies from white supremacists, apparently infuriated at the impending loss of a white majority population that was symbolized by Obama’s election, have ratcheted up in the last four years, as hate groups have grown and antigovernment “Patriot” organizations have expanded explosively.
For Page, the bloodbath in Oak Creek ended what apparently was a frustrating quest. He told an interviewer in 2010 that he had chosen the name End Apathy for a band he formed because he was trying to “figure out how to end people’s apathetic ways” and “move forward” for the white supremacist cause.
Evidently, the lyrics of hate were not enough.
Swastikas and Murder
In 1995, three years after Page joined the Army at age 20, the Colorado native arrived at Fort Bragg, a sprawling installation in Fayetteville, N.C., that’s home to the 82nd Airborne Division as well as the Army’s Special Forces Command.
When Page was transferred there, it also served as the home base for a brazen cadre of white supremacist soldiers. Nazi flags flew and party music endorsed the killing of African-Americans and Jews. And, according to the Military Law Review, soldiers openly sought recruits for the National Alliance, then the most dangerous and best organized neo-Nazi group in the country. A billboard just outside the base even advertised for the National Alliance.
That same year, three paratroopers from Fort Bragg murdered a black man and a black woman in Fayetteville to earn their spider web tattoos, racist badges of honor that sometimes signify that their bearers have killed non-whites. The soldiers went to prison for life, and 19 other paratroopers were discharged for participating in neo-Nazi activities. The scandal prompted congressional hearings and led to new military regulations aimed at preventing extremist activity. But as an investigation by the Intelligence Report a decade later showed, the new rules did not go nearly far enough.