Thousands pay last respects to US gurdwara shoot-out victims | chandigarh | Hindustan Times
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Thousands pay last respects to US gurdwara shoot-out victims

Thousands paid their final respects on Friday to the six who were gunned down by a white supremacist at a gurdwara in the USA almost a week ago for reasons, authorities say, may never become clear. A day after the gurdwara in Wisconsin opened for the first time since Sunday's attack, the mourners, many of them Indian-American from across North America, milled through a nearby school gymnasium and by the six caskets.

chandigarh Updated: Aug 12, 2012 21:12 IST

Thousands of mourners paid their final respects on Friday to the six who were gunned down by a white supremacist at a gurdwara in the USA almost a week ago for reasons, authorities say, may never become clear. A day after the gurdwara in Wisconsin opened for the first time since Sunday's attack, the mourners, many of them Indian-American from across North America, milled through a nearby school gymnasium and by the six caskets.

As singers sang hymns in Punjabi, one paused to translate: "Dear God, you have given me this body and this soul. This body is doing whatever you want me to do. You take this soul, this is your soul."

Several police officers stood by, watching the service. At least one covered his head in the Sikh tradition. "We are united today not only by a shared sense of loss but by a belief in the healing power of faith," the country's top lawyer, US attorney general Eric Holder, told the crowd.

After the ceremony, a series of priests were to read the "Akhand Path". "We want to pay homage to the spirits who are still in there," said Harpreet Singh, a nephew of one of the victims. One bullet hole in a doorway leading to the main prayer hall has been left unrepaired as a memorial to the shooting victims.

Federal investigators might never know for certain why 40-year-old Wade Michael Page chose to attack strangers. The Army veteran opened fire with a 9 mm pistol, killing five men and one woman and injuring two other men.

The dead included Satwant Singh Kaleka, 65, the head priest of the gurdwara in Oak Creek, who was shot as he tried to fend off Page with a butter knife. Authorities say he ambushed the first police officer who responded, shooting him nine times. A second officer shot Page in the stomach, and Page killed himself with a shot to the head.

The officer, who was injured, Oak Creek police Lieutenant Brian Murphy, was upgraded on Thursday to satisfactory condition. The others killed: Ranjit Singh, 49, and his 41-year-old brother, Sita Singh, two priests whose families were back in India and whose lives in America revolved around their faith. Suveg Singh Khattra, 84, a former farmer in India who was a constant presence at the temple. Prakash Singh, 39, a priest who was remembered as fun-loving and who enjoyed telling jokes. Paramjit Kaur, 41 who worked 66 hours a week to provide for her family but found time to pray every day for at least an hour.

The FBI roped off the temple for four days while agents conducted their investigation. They handed the keys back to Sikh leaders in the morning on Thursday. Workers spent the time repairing bullet damage, shampooing blood-stained carpets and repainting walls.

Kuldeep Chahal, 35, a teacher from Toronto, arrived at the temple with several others after driving 12 hours. Chahal brought banners and cards that temple members in Canada had signed for families of the victims. "The reason we came down is because we definitely want to show the community how much we support them," Chahal said.