"As a mark of respect for the victims of the senseless acts of violence in Oak Creek, Wisconsin,... I hereby order that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset, Aug 10, 2012. I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same length of time at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations," US President Barack Obama said.
Members of the Sikh community welcomed the move. "This is a kind gesture by the leader of our nation. It certainly sends a powerful signal to the world that this nation mourns the Sikh victims who have been killed in a dastardly acts of violence motivated by hate and prejudice," Rajwant Singh, chairman of the Washington-based Sikh Council on Religion and Education, said.
"Ordering the flying of US flags at half-staff at the White House and all buildings representing the US government is a great way to honour the victims and it represents the collective spirit of this nation. It conveys the strong message that this is an American tragedy not just a Sikh tragedy. We also pray for the police officers who put their lives in danger to save others," he added.
Worshippers were gathering for morning prayers day before yesterday when 40-year-old Wade Michael Page walked into the Gurdwara and started firing indiscriminately. By the time a police officer's bullet put a stop to his killing spree, five men - Sita Singh (41), Ranjeet Singh (49), Satwant Singh Kaleka (62), Prakash Singh (39), Shobaik Singh (84) - and a woman named Paramjeet Kaur (41) had died.
Ever since the incident, investigators have been trying to ascertain the gunman's motive. The local police have described the senseless shooting as an act of "domestic terrorism" but the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is looking at other angles too.
According to eyewitnesses, Page had more than one '9/11' tattoo on his arm. It has led many to suspect that the senseless shooting was a hate crime. In the past, white supremacists have often attacked Sikhs after confusing the latter with Muslims.
Referring to this speculation, Obama told reporters, "If it turns out, as some early reports indicate, that it may have been motivated in some way by the ethnicity of those who were attending the temple, I think the American people immediately recoil against those kinds of attitudes."
The US president stressed to his countrymen that "regardless of what we look like, where we come from, who we worship, we are all one people, and we look after one another and we respect one another."