The killings at a Sikh temple in suburban Milwaukee should prompt a discussion over whether laws need to be changed to prevent similar occurrences in the future, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said today.
Holder spoke at a memorial service in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, telling mourners that the Sikh community has been “targeted and victimized” in recent years due to their appearance and beliefs.
“We should sensibly discuss if there is a need to change our laws, and we should certainly discuss how we might change the hearts of those so filled with hate that the despicable act we mourn today could ever have occurred,” Holder said during the service at Oak Creek High School. “For our nation’s law enforcement community, our resolve to prevent acts of terrorism and combat crimes motivated by hatred has never been stronger.”
Holder, who attended the service on behalf of President Barack Obama, said that the Justice Department and other law enforcement agencies would continue their investigation into the Aug. 5 shooting and that his agency would identify and implement any changes in laws that may help prevent similar actions. He didn’t elaborate on what might need to be changed.
Authorities identified the suspected gunman as Wade Michael Page, 40, who police said killed himself after being wounded by officers.
Described as a “frustrated neo-Nazi,” Page started a “racist white-power” band called End Apathy in 2005, according to the Montgomery, Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups and had been tracking him for a decade.
The shootings are being treated as an act of domestic terrorism by the FBI.
Several months before the Wisconsin shooting, more than 90 members of Congress asked to have the FBI monitor hate crimes directed at Sikh adherents. The lawmakers cited a “growing concern” about such incidents in an April 19 letter to Holder and FBI Director Robert Mueller.
“Protecting the safety and civil rights of every person in this country -– in our schools and neighborhoods, in our workplaces and houses of worship -– must, and will, remain a top priority for me and for all those who serve the American family,” Holder said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Phil Mattingly in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org