In November of last year, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) closed its investigation into the Oak Creek, Wisconsin mass shooting at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in which six innocent worshipers were murdered by a white supremacist. The FBI issued a one-page press release stating that there was “no evidence to suggest the attack was part of any ongoing threat to the Sikh community.” At the time, the FBI declined to provide additional information, and the victims’ families expressed disappointment with the absence of additional information.
According to a news report from Fox 6 Now in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, families of the victims and local media are still waiting for the FBI to release its full report (based on “200 investigative leads, 300 interviews and 200 pieces of evidence”), now seven months after the attack and three months after the request was made by the news outlet.
The amount of time it has taken for this report is glaring when compared with released from other agencies. Fox 6 Now also reports that “Brookfield [Wisconsin] police released more than 600 pages of information late last week when they closed their investigation into the Azana Salon & Spa shooting.” This shooting occurred two months after that in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.
However, it was only last week that the FBI released its 128-page report about singer Whitney Houston’s death which occurred last year.
The time it has taken for the FBI to release its full report into the Oak Creek shooting has left victims’ families wondering:
“We want to know what happened inside the temple. I think we deserve a little more than that…” — Kamaljit Saini, son of Oak Creek victim Paramjit Kaur.
The delay by the FBI and the lack of provision of further information reinforces the belief that domestic terrorist groups, including white supremacy groups, are not being taken seriously enough by the FBI and/or federal agencies. Even our lawmakers appear to be more interested in targeting groups such as those who suffer from mental illness though these individuals have not shown high rates of violence compared to right-wing extremists and hate groups in the United States. And, according to a recent report issued by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the numbers of these groups grew in 2012 compared to the previous year. With such high numbers of right-wing extremist groups, there is a concern that this will translate to increased levels of violence:
The big fear is that some of this will lead to violence — or rather, more violence. The incidents are too often ignored or viewed as isolated from each other, but there has been much more right-wing terrorism than most people probably realize, from the Sikh Temple shooting, the Holocaust Memorial shooting, the Pittsburgh police shootings, of any of the dozens of attacks on law enforcement officers.
It is therefore important that we continue to exert pressure on our politicians, policymakers, and law enforcement agencies to maintain their focus on hate- and bias-motivated crime, particularly in light of the shooting of a Sikh man in Florida ten days ago. To that end, the Sikh Coalition is again urging members of Congress to sign a letter written by New York Representative Joe Crowley requesting that the FBI begins tracking hate crimes against Sikhs, Hindus and Arabs explicitly. Despite previous requests by families of victims, US Senators, House Representatives, Sikh advocacy groups, members of the community, and US law enforcement officials, the FBI still has not committed to making this addition to their data tracking and reporting.
Certainly, reporting these crimes out of the FBI database is only a start. As of the last update, almost 70 members have signed the letter to ask the FBI to track hate crimes against Sikhs. You can ask your Representative to sign the letter using the online petition provided by the Sikh Coalition.
Despite the dearth of information provided about the Oak Creek attack, it should be noted that the victims and families in Oak Creek have been provided some support by the US government. Last month, the Sikh Coalition provided a six-month update which detailed the funding of improved security for the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, victim compensation, and immigration support for the families of victims.
Finally, seven months removed from the mass shooting, I took note of the online memorial set up by the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin that provides a touching tribute to each of the six victims killed during the attack on August 5. The memorial can be viewed at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin website.