20 Aug 2014
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'We're Going to Work Toward Healing'

Oak Creek begins dealing with the aftermath of one of the city's darkest days.

The morning after one of the worst events in Oak Creek's history, law enforcement and city officials Monday were sorting through a myriad of issues following the shootings at the Sikh Temple.

Seven people died, including the 40-year-old suspect , and three were injured. Police Chief John Edwards said one of the injured people was shot in the head and is in grave condition at the hospital.

The shooting comes a little over two weeks since the nation was similarly rocked by a movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado. Steve Hogan, the Aurora mayor, has called Oak Creek Mayor Steve Scaffidi to talk about what the days and weeks ahead will be like.

"He said that the first couple weeks are going to be a very tough transition," Scaffidi recounted. "You're going to be dealing with not only the loss of some great members of the community at the Sikh Temple, but we have a police officer who is critically injured and some other officers that were involved."

A police officer was among the injured in the shooting. He was shot between eight and nine times, but is recovering from his injuries in the intensive care unit, Edwards said. He was in surgery for five hours yesterday and got out about 11:30 p.m.

"There was serious damage," Edwards said. "Obviously, there's a lot of recuperation (ahead), but we're hoping he will recover fully."

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Despite the seriousness of his injuries, the officer tried to wave other police officers away as they tended to his wounds, Edwards said.

Police are not naming him because not all of his family members have been notified. Officials have said he is a 20-year veteran of the force.

Police also hope to release more information about the suspect at a 10 a.m. news conference. Edwards descibed him as a man in his 40s with a military background. The FBI is the lead agency on the investigation.

"We feel confident there was no other shooters," he said. 

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Police officers knocked on doors of hundreds of homes in the area last night as they continued their investigation and made sure residents were fine.

No residents in Oak Creek were evacuated, though three blocks in Cudahy where the suspected gunman lived was. Howell Avenue between Rawson and Drexel is still closed as the investigation continues.

Edwards said the incident is certainly having an impact on the police force. Counselors are being brought in this afternoon.

"They were having a hard time yesterday," he said. "It's understandable. But they're all veterans ... they did exactly what they had to do.

"Unfortunately, it takes something like this and people kind of come closer together. But it's a brotherhood, and everybody is looking out for everybody right now," the chief said.

Speaking with Oak Creek Patch after a round of national television interviews, Scaffidi said it will take some time for the community to heal.

A memorial event is planned on Tuesday during National Night Out, which will be held as scheduled.

"You're going to feel the effects of this for a long time," he said. "We're going to work toward healing."

Scaffidi said he did not have any previous contacts with the Sikh Temple but knew them as a "great member of the community" that did not have past problems in Oak Creek. The Sikh Temple moved here about five years ago.

Scaffidi said the phone call he received from President Barack Obama Sunday afternoon was "startling." But the two- or three-minute conversation was very comforting, he said, as the president offered whatever federal resources are needed.

"He understood that this is a significant event in our country and wanted to make sure he connected with us, and I really appreciated the phone call," Scaffidi said.

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