On Aug. 6, 2012, neo-Nazi Wade Michael Page stormed the Sikh gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, just before Sunday prayers, killing six Indian Americans and critically injuring three others before shooting himself.
Page was a member of the Hammerskin Nation, a white supremacist group.
Almost seven years later, 21-year-old Patrick Crusius opened fire Aug. 3 morning at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, killing 22 people and injuring at least 26 others. Hours before the shooting, Crusius released a racist anti-immigrant manifesto stating that Hispanics had taken over the U.S. He later told law enforcement he had hoped to kill as many Mexicans as he could.
“Hispanics will take control of the local and state government of my beloved Texas, changing policy to better suit their needs. They will turn Texas into an instrument of a political coup which will hasten the destruction of our country,” wrote Crusius in his four-page manifesto.
Law enforcement believes the shooter targeted El Paso because of its high concentration of Latino Americans. The border town is situated just across the Rio Grande from Juarez, Mexico.
The atrocities share a common thread, alarmingly growing in the U.S. — victims of mass shootings are increasingly targeted because of their race or faith.
South Asian Americans Leading Together noted that there were 2,009 hate crimes in 30 of the country's largest cities in 2018, the highest number in the past decade.
Last year marked the fifth consecutive increase in hate crimes, the steepest rise since 2015, according to police data analyzed by the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, noted SAALT in a press statement.
“White supremacist violence is killing people of color and immigrants. Any elected official refusing to acknowledge this problem and consider legislation that confronts this violence is complicit,” stated the organization.
A memorial service, organized by Indian American Pardeep Singh Kaleka — the son of former Oak Creek gurdwara president Satwant Singh Kaleka, who lost his life to Page as he was trying to rescue others — was held Aug. 5 at the gurdwara. Speakers recalled the Oak Creek tragedy, and paid tributes to the victims of the El Paso shooting, along with survivors of a mass shooting in Gilroy, Calif., a week earlier, which killed three people.
Speakers also paid tribute to victims of a mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, Aug. 4, which killed nine people. In total, 34 people were killed over a period of seven days in three mass shootings.
“Senseless murders that seem to happen on a regular basis,” Kaleka said in a Facebook post on the day of the memorial service.
Several organizations released statements Aug. 6 to pay tribute to the victims of the Oak Creek tragedy. They also called for stricter gun control laws.
Indian American Reps. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., and Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington — both members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus — expressed their grief and disappointment at President Donald Trump’s inaction, in a statement released Aug. 6 by CAPAC.
“Tragically, mass shootings like this one are on the rise across our country. We are seeing the real, devastating effects of a lack of sensible gun reform,” said Jayapal.
“The president’s dangerous racist and xenophobic rhetoric fans the flames of hate and violence against our communities, and Republicans remain unwilling to pass common sense gun-reform legislation,” she said, adding her commitment to comprehensive gun control.
“In honor of those who died at Oak Creek, as well as those who were brutally murdered in El Paso, Dayton, and Gilroy over the last week, I will continue to advocate for stricter gun control laws and comprehensive background checks,” said Khanna.
Anjleen Kaur, executive director of the National Sikh Coalition, also expressed her sorrow at the shootings in El Paso, Dayton, and Gilroy. “As Sikhs our central belief in our faith is that in the eyes of God all people, regardless of their race or gender, are equal and as Americans our founders declared in our founding documents that ‘all men are created equal.’”
“We are disturbed by the rise in ideologies in our country that are fundamentally contrary to the core values of our nation and our faith,” said Kaur.
The American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin also condemned the El Paso tragedy and advocated for commonsense gun reform.
“As physicians, we see these victims in the hospitals and care for them. Gun violence is a preventable health hazard. Many innocent lives are lost every year for no reason,” said Suresh Reddy, president of AAPI.
AAPI stands with the American Medical Association’s recommendations such as research, background checks, and gun buy-back programs, Reddy added.