Monday, August 6, 2012
Police have stepped up patrols at several Sikh temples in Southern California, but not San Diego, after a deadly attack in Wisconsin. About 600 families are practicing Sikhs in San Diego County, and a priest from a temple in Poway knew two of the victims killed in Sunday's massacre.
A gunman identified as a former Army veteran opened fire on a Sikh temple outside of Milwaukee killing five people Sunday before police fatally shot him.
Concerns about copycats prompted extra police patrols in Los Angeles and Orange counties, but not San Diego County, where there are two temples.
Wade Michael Page, 40, reportedly opened fire without saying a word. Police say he's the former leader of a white supremacist heavy metal band.
Two of the priests killed at the temple were friends and colleagues of Pratap Singh, a priest at a temple in Poway.
"One of the priests has two young children and I couldn't even eat yesterday after hearing the news, thinking of them over and over again," he said.
Amardeep Singh Mann with the San Diego Sikh Foundation says he doesn't want to speculate on the gunman's motive, and thinks we should let authorities piece together what happened.
"If somebody like this does something irrational in this way and takes out innocent people, it's not good, no matter who it happens to, whether it's Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims or Christians," he said.
Mann said we have to move forward and build better bridges of understanding because Sikhs are often wrongly labeled as terrorists.
"When this took place yesterday, I'm sure most of America was saying, 'I wonder what a Sikh Temple is,' even though it's the fifth biggest religion in the world," he said. "So that means we've got a big job to do to help make people understand better the teachings of our religion."
There are about 600 Sikhs living in San Diego County and they worship at two temples: one in Poway and another in Escondido.
Most Sikhs live in Punjab, India where their monotheistic religion was founded in the 15th century. They believe in one God and equality for all people. Mann said it's gut wrenching to see shootings like this and their condolences go out to people who've lost loved ones.
There will be a prayer service for the victims and the public Wednesday night from 6:30-8 p.m. at the Sikh Temple San Diego in Poway.