The 65-year-old head of the gurudwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, turned out to be an unlikely hero during Sunday’s shooting incident, as he confronted the white supremacist gunman with his ‘kirpan’ to save dozens of women, children and other worshippers.
But Sadwant Singh Kaleka’s battle proved unequal. The gunman, Wade Michael Page, 40, killed him mercilessly with his 9-mm handgun.
Kaleka’s heroism slowed down the neo-Nazi killer, giving women and children vital moments to flee and bolt themselves up in rooms around the complex, U.S. media reports said.
The women and children, preparing meals for congregation, were in the direct line of attack, and Kaleka’s brave effort to stab Page has won him widespread acclaim in Wisconsin. “He became an unlikely hero to save the place which he had devoted to build,” his son Amardeep Kaleka said. “Whatever time he spent in that struggle gave the women time to take cover.”
Relatives said Kaleka was widely regarded as the founder of the temple that was attacked by Page, a disgraced veteran, who is thought to have mistaken bearded and turbaned Sikhs for Muslims.
When Kaleka confronted the gunman, Page had already shot at least one person in the car park. He went on to kill six worshippers before returning outside to ambush the police when he heard their sirens. He was killed in a gunfight after he severely wounded a police officer.
Kaleka and his family came to the U.S. from India in 1982. He built a successful business and devoted every extra dollar he earned to building the gurudwara.
Meanwhile, Wade’s mother Laura Lynn said on Tuesday that she was sorry for her “precious little boy” turning into a mass murderer.
She said she had had no contact with Wade since his father Jesse Alvin Page divorced her. She was shocked and heartbroken on hearing about Page’s death.
“He was such a precious little boy, that’s all I can say, he was a very fun-loving, typical little boy. He was just a very soft-spoken, gentle young man,” she told Mail Online . “... I’m devastated. My heart goes out to all the people who lost their loved ones, that’s all I can say, I am so sorry.”
Asked whether the Army had changed her son, Ms. Lynn said: “I have no idea, I have not been in contact with him that much.” — PTI