OAK CREEK, Wis. —Wade Michael Page, the gunman in Sunday’s Sikh temple shooting, had a history of problems with alcohol, which led to him losing his military career and, more recently, a job as a trucker.
Page, 40, was shot to death by a Wisconsin police officer after he killed six Sikh worshipers at a temple here and shot another officer. He was discharged from the Army in 1998 because he had been found drunk during military exercises, according to law enforcement authorities. He was convicted of driving under the influence a year later in Colorado. And a trucking company confirmed Tuesday morning that it fired Page two years ago after he was pulled over in North Carolina for driving while impaired.
Christopher Robillard, of Oregon, who described Page as “my closest friend” in the service more than a decade ago, said Page was pushed out of the military for showing up to formation drunk.
In an interview with CNN, he described Page as “a very kind, very smart individual — loved his friends. One of those guys with a soft spot.” But even then, Robillard said, Page “was involved with white supremacy.”
“He would talk about the racial holy war, like he wanted it to come,” Robillard said. “But to me, he didn’t seem like the type of person to go out and hurt people.”
Later Monday, Robillard told CNN’s “Piers Morgan Tonight” that Page likely sought attention to his beliefs “because he was always the loner type of person. Even in a group of people, he would be off alone.”
In 2000, Page sold everything he owned aside from his motorcycle and journeyed from his native Colorado, eventually settling in rural North Carolina. He joined prominent “white power” rock bands.
Page worked as a driver from 2006 to 2010 for Barr-Nunn Transportation, a trucking company based in Iowa. He was fired in August 2010 after being cited in North Carolina for driving while impaired by alcohol or some other chemical substance.
The company said in a statement that Page was driving his personal vehicle in North Carolina at the time of the citation, and he refused to submit to a blood-alcohol test when pulled over.
After losing his job, Page apparently ran into financial trouble. Public records show that his home, in a rural part of Fayetteville, N.C., was foreclosed on in January. Page had bought the house for $165,000 in 2007, refinanced his mortgage two years later and had fallen far behind in payments.
Investigators are working to determine Page’s motive for the shooting, which in addition to the six dead, left a police officer and two others wounded. Apart from his apparent struggles with alcohol and his personal finances, Page was a musician, who had become deeply embedded in the white-supremacist music scene and was well known to anti-hate watchdog groups. One such group, Southern Poverty Law Center, said it had been tracking him for more than a decade.
A compilation of Page’s online postings by the SITE monitoring service shows many efforts to promote his bands, which had titles like “Definite Hate” and “End Apathy.” But there were also frequent references to the number 88, which is code for “Heil Hitler,” derived from the position of the letter “H” as the eighth letter of the alphabet, and to “the 14 words” — two 14-word-long supremacist mantras. The first mantra is, “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White Children.” The second is, “Because the beauty of the White Aryan women must not perish from the earth.”
Late in 2011, when one member of the online community vowed to flee the country if African American businessman Herman Cain was successful in his campaign for the presidency, Page exhorted, “Stand and fight, don’t run,” SITE reported.
And last April, after a poster asked forum members what they had done to “spread the truth” about white supremacism to their loved ones and acquaintances, Page replied: “Passive submission is indirect support to the oppressors. Stand up for yourself and live the 14 words.”
A participant on one of the forums Page frequented, Crew38.com, posted a rant on the same day as the shooting that directed others to “start beating scum in your neighborhood,” SITE reported. The next day, a discussion thread on the site lamented what it described as a low level of commitment from “self-proclaimed aryan warriors and soldiers.”
Officials said Monday that they think Page acted alone when he opened fire at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in this Milwaukee suburb. The rampage, coming just two weeks after a mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., forced the nation to grapple with yet another incident of horrific violence, this one aimed at a religious group whose low-key profile in this country added to the mystery of the attack.