Authorities Delve Into Sikh Temple Shooter's Past
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Now let's learn more about Wade Michael Page. He's the man police say opened fire at the temple and then opened fire on the police officer who finally killed him.
NPR counterterrorism correspondent Dina Temple-Raston has been talking with law enforcement officials. And Dina, over the last 24 hours you've given us different details about Mr. Page. Put it together here. Who was this man?
DINA TEMPLE-RASTON, BYLINE: Well, because he died at the scene, investigators are having to piece together what happened in the run-up to the shooting to try and figure out what his motive was. And what they found out so far is that A) he wasn't a very successful soldier; B) he seemed to be on the fringes of the white supremacy movement; and C) they aren't sure why he lashed out at this community.
He'd been in the Army since 1992 and then was - left the Army in 1998, but investigators say they aren't finding many clues there. He was given a general discharge, which is lower than an honorable discharge. And we know he had some drinking problems. He was found to be both drunk and absent without leave in June 1998. And by October of that year, 1998, he had been administratively discharged - in essence kicked out of the Army.
Investigators said that there was nothing in his army record that would've suggested this is where he was headed. There was no sort of allegation of white supremacy in any way. But he left the Army 14 years ago, so that's not going to play much, they don't think, of a part in this shooting.
INSKEEP: So does that point them then toward those 14 years and what happened then?
TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, exactly. I mean they're looking for clues in the closer past. You know, the FBI is looking at some neo-Nazi affiliations he might have had, affiliations that started after he left the Army. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which is a civil rights advocacy group, said that he had been part of the white power music scene since 2000.
He had started a band called End Apathy in 2005, which had some provocative lyrics and racist album covers. And there have been some pictures that have surfaced of Page standing in front of a flag with a swastika. And the Southern Poverty Law Center said that they had opened up a file on him about 10 years ago because of these affiliations.
He also popped up on the FBI's radar screen about six years ago, as possibly funding domestic terrorist groups, but there wasn't enough there to open a case. And officials declined to provide more details aside from saying that Page wasn't completely unknown to them. I mean the big thing here seems to be so far that Page seemed to be involved in white supremacist groups, but not sort of the big ones that you've heard of, Christian Identity or Aryan Nation. He seems to have been on the fringes of the movement.
INSKEEP: Although when you say involved in groups, started a band, part of a scene, possibly funding other people, it does raise the question of whether he acted alone in this shooting.
TEMPLE-RASTON: Yes. There was one person of interest that officers were talking about yesterday. They even publicized his photograph and asked the press to help find out who he was, but he has been interviewed, he's been released, and he has nothing to do with this case. So the big clues now are going to be found in Page's computer, what they find after having searched his home, and that's likely going to give them a pretty good picture of what was going on with him and maybe give them an idea of his motive.
INSKEEP: And what does it mean that local authorities have been calling this a case of possible domestic terrorism? What is the significance of that label, and how would that distinguish this from other shootings like that shooting in the movie theater a couple of weeks ago?
TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, two things. The first is that the Colorado theater shooting, as far as we could tell, had no political message. It wasn't trying to scare members of a particular group. In this case, what officials are trying to determine is whether the shooter was trying to send a political message with the violence. And until they get to motive, that's going to be a bit muddled. Local police called this domestic terrorism for a more pedantic reason.
The FBI's domestic terrorism unit is leading this investigation, and that was sort of an assignment issue. They haven't determined this is domestic terrorism. It's more they thought these guys were the better people to be investigating this particular case rather than, for example, their mortgage fraud group. So we shouldn't read too much into this. They're still piecing a lot of this together, and they don't have a full picture of why it is that Page opened fire on Sunday.
INSKEEP: Okay. And NPR's Dina Temple-Raston has the fullest picture available now of this man, Wade Michael Page, and why he may have acted on Sunday. Dina, thanks very much.
TEMPLE-RASTON: You're welcome.
INSKEEP: She is our counter-terrorism correspondent. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.