(OAK CREEK, Wis.) — The Army veteran who opened fire on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin was a member of a white-supremacist organization called Volksfront, described by a watchdog group as “virulently racist,” law enforcement officials told ABC News.
The gunman, Wade Michael Page, 40, was shot dead by police Sunday, ending a murderous rampage that left six people dead and several wounded, including an Oak Creek police officer.
Page’s family issued a text to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that they were, “devastated by the horrific events.”
“While there can be no words of comfort that will make sense of what happened that day, please be aware that our thoughts and prayers go out to all the victims and their families. We share in their grief,” the text said.
Details of Page’s seemingly angry life emerged Monday.
He was a member of the Volksfront, authorities said, which the group’s website describes as “fraternal brotherhood of white men.” Page was also the front man for the hardcore rock band End Apathy, whose music was distributed by Label 56, an independent record company that publishes white-supremacist music.
The Anti-Defamation League describes Volksfront as, “a virulently racist and anti-Semitic group … [and] the most active neo-Nazi group on the West Coast.” It is headquartered in Portland, Ore., and has chapters across the country.
In 2007, an alleged member was found guilty for his role in an attack on an Oregon synagogue, in which a group of skinheads threw rocks and etched swastikas during a service.
Volksfront issued a statement Monday denying that Page was a member of their group and called the killings, “an act of demented criminal cowardice.”
“In our opinion Wade Page is a coward and disgrace to his people,” the group said.
It also said, however, that the “‘White Nationalist’ movement is fractured.”
“Unfortunately not all organizations do their due diligence in controlling their rhetoric or enforcing a code of conduct and that allows rejects, outcasts and deviants to infiltrate certain segments of the loosely defined ‘White Nationalist” movement,” the group said.
FBI agents Monday searched Page’s former residence in Nashville, N.C., and interviewed associates and family members.
At an apartment building in Oak Creek, just miles from the scene of Sunday’s bloody attack, one-time neighbor David Brown described Page as loud and unfriendly.
“Very standoffish. He didn’t communicate at all,” Brown told ABC News.
“On a scale of 1 to 10, about a 1.5. He’s not real friendly,” Brown said. “He wouldn’t be easy to meet and talk to.”
Brown said Page moved into the apartment building in April along with a woman he believed was the shooter’s then girlfriend.
“He was a little surly. I didn’t pay much attention to him,” Brown said.
Brown said Page would routinely blast loud music and was sometimes seen carrying a long case, he assumed held musical equipment like a keyboard.
“He got more quiet the longer he lived here. The first week or two, I’d say ‘hi’ and he’d smile a little. Then the smiles went away,” he said.
Page was described by authorities Monday as an Army veteran who left the service with a general discharge following a “pattern of misconduct,” including being AWOL and drunk while on duty. The terms of his discharge would not allow him to reenlist.
He served in the Army from April 1992 through October 1998, during which he was demoted from sergeant to specialist.
While in the Army Wade served in Ft. Bliss in Texas and at Ft. Bragg in North Carolina. Wade’s job was as a Hawk missile system repairman, and he then became a psychological operations specialist, a defense official confirmed to ABC news.
Officials said they believe Page alone was responsible for Sunday’s shooting. On Monday morning they distributed a photograph of an unknown man they described as “person of interest.” Later in the day, the FBI confirmed it had contacted the man and ruled out any involvement.
Page is believed to be the gunman who opened fire on people at the Sikh temple around 10:30 a.m. Sunday morning and killed six people. The victims ranged in age from 39 to 84. He also ambushed police Lt. Brian Murphy, shooting him eight or nine times, Edwards said. Murphy is expected to survive. Two other gunshot victims are in critical condition, police said.
Page was shot dead by police when he was ordered to drop his weapon and began firing at them instead.
Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards praised the work of his officers, saying they, “stopped a tragic event that could’ve been a lot worse.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Jeff Simon, CNN
Stephen Collinson, CNN
Steve Visser, CNN