OAK CREEK, WISCONSIN (BNO NEWS) -- A lone gunman opened fire Sunday at a Sikh temple in southeast Wisconsin, killing six people before being shot dead by a police officer, officials said. Authorities are treating the incident as a possible act of domestic terrorism.
The incident began at around 10:25 a.m. local time when a gunman, armed with a 9 mm semi-automatic gun, walked into a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, a suburb of Milwaukee, and opened fire at worshippers just before Sunday services were to begin. Dozens of people were inside, including children.
Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Fran McLaughlin said the first 911 call came in at 10:26 a.m. local time, after which local police officers and a SWAT team responded.
"Our officers responded to the scene, did find a victim and were dealing with that individual when our officer, a 20-year veteran, was ambushed [and] shot multiple times," said Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards. "Another officer who was on scene was [also] engaged by the suspect [and] our officer did engage that individual, and that individual is deceased from the action that our officer took."
Edwards said seven people were killed, including the gunman, four victims who were found inside the temple and two victims whose bodies were found outside the building. Three people were also critically injured, including the Oak Creek police officer who was shot by the gunman.
The injured victims were rushed to Froedtert Hospital, where they remained in a critical condition on late Sunday. "They are all victims of gunshot wounds," said Lee Biblo, chief medical officer at the hospital. "One suffered injuries to the abdomen and chest. One suffered injuries to the extremities and face. One suffered injures to the neck."
Biblo said two of the patients have undergone surgery and one patient was undergoing a 'complex procedure' on late Sunday. He gave no other details about the nature of their injuries or if any were in a life-threatening condition, but Edwards said the injured police officer is expected to recover.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) described the gunman as a white male in his 40s, but gave no other details. A witness told CNN the gunman had a tattoo marking the September 11 terrorist attacks, but authorities were unable to confirm those claims. The identity of the suspect was not immediately released.
"The FBI is working closely with the Oak Creek Police Department and other local and federal agencies to investigate today's shooting incident," said Teresa Carlson, Special Agent in Charge at the FBI's Milwaukee Division. "This remains an active investigation in its early stages. While the FBI is investigating whether this matter might be an act of domestic terrorism, no motive has been determined at this time."
Edwards also said the attack is being treated as a domestic terrorist-type incident, but gave no other details. "Domestic terrorism is somebody who is doing some active terrorism within the confines of the United States," he said. "It is not from another country or anything like that, it is within the United States."
A White House official said President Barack Obama was notified of the shooting shortly before 1 p.m. EDT by Homeland Security Advisor John Brennan. He later convened a conference call with FBI Director Bob Mueller, Chief of Staff Jack Lew, and Brennan to receive an update on the incident.
"Michelle and I were deeply saddened to learn of the shooting that tragically took so many lives in Wisconsin," Obama said in a statement. "At this difficult time, the people of Oak Creek must know that the American people have them in our thoughts and prayers, and our hearts go out to the families and friends of those who were killed and wounded."
He added: "My Administration will provide whatever support is necessary to the officials who are responding to this tragic shooting and moving forward with an investigation. As we mourn this loss which took place at a house of worship, we are reminded how much our country has been enriched by Sikhs, who are a part of our broader American family."
Following the conference call, Obama also called Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Oak Creek Mayor Steve Scaffidi and Sikh Temple trustee Charanjeet Singh to express his condolences for the lives lost and his concern for those who were injured. "The President said that he wanted to make sure that as we denounce this senseless act of violence we also underscore how much our country has been enriched by our Sikh Community, who are an integral part of our broader American family," the White House said.
Scaffidi, speaking at a news conference, expressed his shock about the mass shooting. "The City of Oak Creek is outraged by the senseless act of violence that happened in our city today, and our thoughts and prayers go out to those victims," he said. "We are grateful for the heroic actions of two of our officers who made a very dangerous situation a little bit better, and probably saved lives. So we are thankful for that and we hope that they have a speedy recovery."
In Washington, D.C., the Indian Embassy said it has sent an official to Oak Creek to get more details about the situation. "The Embassy is seized of the situation and has been in touch with the National Security Council in Washington, D.C.," the Embassy said in a statement. "Our Consulate General in Chicago too has been in close touch with the local authorities to monitor the situation."
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