OAK CREEK, Wis. (AP) — Authorities were on the scene Sunday of shootings at a Sikh temple near Milwaukee, where police and witnesses described a chaotic situation with an unknown number of victims, suspects and possible hostages.
Police were called to the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in the suburb of Oak Creek on Sunday morning, when witnesses said several dozen people were gathering for a service. They responded with a dozen ambulances, although Greenfield Police Chief Bradley Wentlandt said it wasn't clear how many people had been shot.
Wentlandt also said it wasn't clear how many suspects were involved, although one opened fire on an officer and the officer "put down" that man. Wentlandt said the officer was shot multiple times but expected to survive.
He described the scene as chaotic and fluid and urged the media not to broadcast photos or video showing tactical units, which could put officers in danger.
Three shooting victims, all men, were taken to Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee, the main trauma center for the area, spokeswoman Carolyn Bellin said. One was in the operating room, another in a surgical intensive care unit and the third was being evaluated in the emergency room, she said.
Sukhwindar Nagr, of Racine, said he called his brother-in-law's phone and a priest at the temple answered and told him that his brother-in-law had been shot, along with three priests. The priest also said women and children were hiding in closets in the temple, Nagr said.
Sikh rights groups have reported a rise in bias attacks since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The Washington-based Sikh Coalition has reported more than 700 incidents in the U.S. since 9/11, which advocates blame on anti-Islamic sentiment. Sikhs don't practice the same religion as Muslims, but their long beards and turbans often cause them to be mistaken for Muslims, advocates say.
Sikhism is a monotheistic faith that was founded in South Asia more than 500 years ago. It has roughly 27 million followers worldwide. Observant Sikhs do not cut their hair; male followers often cover their heads with turbans — which are considered sacred — and refrain from shaving their beards.
There are roughly 500,000 Sikhs in the U.S., according to estimates. The majority worldwide live in India.