The FBI is treating Sunday’s attack on a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, as a “possible act of domestic terrorism” — raising the possibility that the face of domestic terrorism in the United States looks different than the homegrown jihadism many have forecasted.
At a press conference in Wisconsin, FBI agents investigating the shooting said the rampage had killed at least six and wounded a police officer, and that the shooter was a 40-year old former soldier named Wade Michael Page. FBI special agent-in-charge Teresa Carlson told reporters that Page’s motives “are still being assessed,” but Page appears to have acted alone, killing his victims with a legally purchased 9-millimeter handgun. Carlson called the ongoing investigation a “big undertaking” for the bureau.
Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards disclosed that Page had critically shot “eight or nine times” a 51-year old police officer, Lt. Brian Murphy, a 20-year veteran who was first onto the scene. Page himself was shot by officers relieving Murphy — who told his colleagues to continue into the temple to help victims rather than assist him. Representatives from 28 federal, state and domestic agencies came on the scene, with air support and SWAT teams, and conducted a search of 200 residences in the area to ensure there were no additional attacks. Carlson disclosed that the FBI is looking to interview an unnamed “person of interest” who showed up at the temple during the shooting, drawing suspicion from onlookers.
While counterterrorism analysts have long predicted a rise in domestic terrorism from American jihadis, there haven’t been any successful attacks pulled off by homegrown Islamic militants — with the prominent exception of the 2010 Fort Hood attack committed by Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan. (Others, like would-be Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad, tried and failed in their attack attempts.) But there have been non-jihadist terrorist attacks committed by people who were extremists, but definitely not Muslims: the white supremacist attack on the U.S. Holocaust Museum in 2009, for instance, and the 2010 airplane attack on an Internal Revenue Service building in Austin.