By Major Van Harl USAF Ret
Wisconsin --(Ammoland.com)- “My closest friend for the past sixteen years died here” stated our guide. “The two brothers died here and here” and “the woman was shot as she laid here praying.”
It was 11 September 2013 and I was on a private tour of the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.
The day before, I had facilitated the Milwaukee Area Church Safety & Security Seminar.
Carl Chinn from Colorado Springs, CO was the primary presenter and asked if I could arrange a visit to the Sikh Temple. Carl has been involved in two church campus violence incidents. One where he was held hostage at gun point by a disgruntled former employee who alleged he was carrying explosives and intended to die detonating his devise with Carl and others present.
The second incident was the December 2007 killing of two sisters in the parking lot of the New Live Church in Colorado Springs. Carl was armed volunteer security that day. The shooter was stopped by gun fire just prior to entering the sanctuary where hundreds of his potential victims were.
Carl and I were taken into the Temple kitchen and showed the tiny pantry (about 5’x10”) where seventeen adults and some children huddled for over two hours trying to avoid Wade Michael Page as he continued to kill.
As we were looking at the pantry a woman who was preparing the noon meal in the kitchen started to explain she was there that day. She was preparing the meal on 5 August 2012 when they heard the shooting and rushed for what little safety the pantry could provide.
The killer, Page, could not see the door to the pantry because of a refrigerated unit blocking his view. Had he climb over the low serving counter of the kitchen he would have found eighteen more victims to slaughter. One of the Sikh men killed, charged and grabbed hold of Page only to have Page shoot multiple rounds into his body.
At first I believe our guide thought we were just two more tourists who had come to the Temple to gawk. After I explained to him about Carl’s two personal encounters with church campus violence and death, the mood changed. The free flow of conversation greatly enhanced during the rest of our visit between Carl and our guide.
These two men had been involved in death and destruction up close and personal, different locations and situations but clearly very much the same. It reminded me of when I would watch two former soldiers who did not know each other talked about their combat experiences. In both cases they calmly discussed actually physical actions of the crisis and the emotions after the violence ended.
When you have been in a violent, death dealing situation you don’t need to embellish or dramatically over tell the story, whether it is combat or evil on your church campus. Facts are traumatic enough.
The Sikhs have a long and proud history of being soldiers in the British and Indian Armies. Our guide was a former Indian Army officer. In the community room next to the kitchen in the Temple is a wall full of large photos and a written history of Sikhs in different military situations and eras. Sikhs as a culture and a religion are no strangers to violence. They are about two percent of the population of India and have had their share of conflict and struggles.
At the Church Safety and Security Seminar the day before, the question of firearms on a church campus came up a number of times. People are afraid of guns because they are untrained. Elected and appointed officials always have to be wary of just how they respond to “the gun question.”
Say yes to guns and you are branded as an extremist, such as the case of the Sheriff of Milwaukee Country and his pro-gun stance. Say no to guns, wait for something terrible to happen and you are now the bad guy who failed to protect and defend—but more sinisterly you are the one who insisted the public should not be armed and prepared. Now someone has died and you the public figure are to blame, not the “evil” that did the killing.
As I looked at the old pictures of the armed and ready to respond Sikh soldiers I had to wonder “if only” someone in that Temple that day had been armed and ready to respond. Violence can only be stopped with equal or greater violence. “Evil Hates Organization” and sadly organized response to church campus violence will be needed again and again in the future.
And now literally as I write this column “evil” is killing Americans at the US Naval Yard in Washington DC.Major Van Harl USAF Ret.
About Major Van Harl USAF Ret.:Major Van E. Harl USAF Ret., a career Police Officer in the U.S. Air Force was born in Burlington, Iowa, USA, in 1955. He was the Deputy Chief of police at two Air Force Bases and the Commander of Law Enforcement Operations at another. He is a graduate of the U.S. Army Infantry School. A retired Colorado Ranger and currently is an Auxiliary Police Officer with the Cudahy PD in Milwaukee County, WI. His efforts now are directed at church campus safely and security training. He believes “evil hates organization.” email@example.com