During his life, Wade Page was nothing if not a relentless promoter of hate and the style of music he loved.
He found a nexus of both in the world of white power rock, where racist skinheads play their own brand of crunchy, loud punk and metal infused with lyrics trashing Jews, blacks, immigrants and anything else bothering them at the moment.
On Monday, authorities identified Page, 40, as the tattooed gunman who opened fire during the weekend at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., killing six people before being shot to death by a police officer.
It didn’t take long to uncover a trail of Page’s postings on various white supremacist message boards, where he constantly promoted the white power bands he played in and knew.
“Definite Hate is looking for a new drummer,” said one posting written under an alias he frequently used, End Apathy, on a message board for the racist skinhead faction known as the Hammerskins. “Must be a skinhead, committed to White Power and the movement, and have the skills to pay the bills.”
While music was usually his main focus, the postings made clear Page was also deeply involved with the Hammerskins organization. While he was living in North Carolina last year, he posted multiple messages encouraging people to come to “meet and greet” gatherings for the group near the city of Rocky Mount.
“All White nationalists are welcome!” said a message posted by End Apathy that appeared on March 22, 2011. “If you are wanting to meet people, get involved and become active then you really need to attend. Stop hiding behind the computer or making excuses.”
The person using the alias occasionally posted similar messages on the well known white supremacist site Stormfront.org, but he appeared to favorite the Hammerskin message boards at crew38.com. The latter website showed he posted 250 times since joining in March 2010.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremism in the U.S., documented Page’s ties to the white supremacist music scene on its own website early Monday. Senior fellow Mark Potok wrote that Page was the leader of a band that shared the name of his message board alias, End Apathy. In interviews later in the day, researchers with the SPLC said they had tracked Page for at least a decade.
The Anti-Defamation League, another group that monitors extremists, also appeared to have been tracking him. The organization’s website published multiple photos of Page playing in white supremacist bands. The ADL said he was a prospective member in the Hammerskins last year and had multiple racist tattoos.
Still, both the FBI and local police said at a news conference that Page was never on their radar. He had only lived in the Milwaukee area for a short time and never did anything there to draw law enforcement attention.
“Nobody knew that this guy was a threat,” Teresa Carlson, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Milwaukee office, said. “That’s the problem with these types of cases.”
Authorities said they believed Page acted alone in the Sunday morning killings. Investigators briefly went looking for a man they described as a “person of interest” who was seen standing near the temple after the massacre, but by Monday afternoon they said that they found him and determined he was unconnected to the case.
The investigation, authorities said, revealed that Page walked up to the Sikh temple, known as a gurdwara, and shot a man standing outside and then went in and opened fire on more people who were there for religious services. Then at some point, he came outside and ambushed a police officer who was responding to 911 calls. He shot the officer eight or nine times, officials said. The officer survived but was in critical condition. Authorities said another officer at the scene then shot and killed Page.
Bernard Zapor, the agent in charge of the St. Paul, Minn., field office of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said Page used a 9mm handgun that was purchased legally. He also used multiple ammunition magazines, Zapor said.
It’s still too early to tell for sure whether Page’s white supremacist views were the motive for what the FBI’s Carlson described “a possible act of domestic terrorism.” However, the victims were clearly ethnic and religious minorities. Those who were killed were all members of the Sikh religion, which has origins in Asia. The victims were Sita Singh, 41, Ranjit Singh, 49, Satwant Singh Kaleka, 65, Prakash Singh, 39, Paramjit Kaur, 41, and Suveg Singh, 84.
Two others along with the officer were also still in the hospital in critical condition on Monday.
Other details about Page’s life also emerged throughout the day. It was still unclear what brought him to Wisconsin, but authorities said he served more than six years in the Army when he was younger.
Army spokeswoman Lt. Col. Lisa Garcia told TPM that Page was a decorated veteran who specialized in psychological operations, or PsyOps. The job description was to help U.S. commanders overseas “communicate information to large audiences,” she said.
Page joined the Army in April 1992 and initially trained at Fort Sill, Okla. He then spent time at Fort Bliss, Texas before finishing out his military career at Fort Bragg, N.C. He was never deployed overseas and left the Army in October 1998.
Page received numerous medals and decorations during his service, Garcia said, including the Army Commendation Medal, the National Defense Service Medal and the Humanitarian Service Medal.
Garcia did not know how Page left the Army, but the Oak Creek police chief said their investigation had found that he received “a general discharge and he was ineligible for reenlistment.”
At some point, Page found his way into the world of white supremacy. A MySpace page for his band said it was started in 2005. It described the type of white power music they played as “a sad commentary on our sick society and the problems that prevent true progress.”
In an interview published in 2010 by the record label that released his music, Page said he had been playing music since he was 13. In 2000, he sold almost everything he owned and set out on a motorcycle trip to attend white power rock concerts throughout the nation. He said he started the band after figuring out he had something to say.
“The concept was based on trying to figure out what it would take to actually accomplish positive results in society and what is holding us back,” he said. “A lot of what I realized at the time was that if we could figure out how to end peoples apathetic ways it would be the start towards moving forward.”
After the shooting, the white supremacist record label that put out his music scrubbed all mentions of End Apathy and Page from its website.
“We do not wish to profit from this tragedy financially or with publicity,” the record label said in a statement posted online. “In closing please do not take what Wade did as honorable or respectable and please do not think we are all like that.”