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Son of Sikh Temple president remembers 'hero' father killed in massacre

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Photo: Video by tmj4.com

Son of Sikh Temple president remembers 'hero' father killed in massacre

By Jay Sorgi. CREATED Aug 6, 2012

OAK CREEK - The son of the man who helped build and run the Sikh Temple remembers him as a hero, a man who helped build the presence of his faith and a pillar of his community.

"My father's the quintessential American story," said Amar Deep Kaleka about his father, Satwant Singh Kaleka, in an interview with TODAY'S TMJ4's Steve Chamraz during an extended version of "Live at Daybreak."

Amar described how his father may have saved more lives by his actions in the temple before a shooter killed him and five others Sunday morning in the temple he ran on South Howell Avenue in Oak Creek.

An Oak Creek Police officer shot and killed the suspect.

He received a call from his father on his cell phone about what was happening there.  Later, he found out the actions his father took.

"The FBI told me...they shook my hand a number of times: Your father was a hero.  He attacked the shooter in the lobby after gunshots were fired, got to him.  There was a blood struggle.   At that point, closer to my mind was that my father did the best to protect the temple, but also my family and the people who were there.  It's an amazing act of heroism, but it's also exactly who he was.  There was no way on God's green earth that he would allow that...he probably bled out and nobody could get to him in time to pull him to safety."

He also mentioned how his mother guided others in the temple who went through the fear of a gunman shooting at Sikh believers.

"My mother, when I got the phone call, it turns out there were eight women around her in the closet.  She kept everybody as quiet as possible because there was somebody taking shots," explained Amar.

He also remembered how his father came to America from India, worked at a gas station, and constructed a life that led to him expanding the area's Sikh temple from simply his house into a larger religious presence in Milwaukee's southern suburbs.

"He had $30 in his pocket.  He worked so hard for his family to give them the guidance they needed in this society.  Many of the officials here know him because he's the Sikh representative in the area," said Amar.

"He took that house and built a temple complex that was unseen in the Midwest...between this temple and his grandchildren, those are the sparkles in his eyes."

"Let's put an end to (ignorance) as a community"

After the shootings, Amar is asking for people to change their knowledge, their attitudes about those who believe in the Sikh faith, and to grow in peaceful ways.

"There's a simplistic way the American public deals with these things, but there's nuances that people have to understand," said Amar.

"I want Americans to understand that we have a lot of responsibility.  We are all immigrants to this great land.  At this point, we have a responsibility as Americans to understand every culture on this planet."

He addressed the possibility that the shooter did not have such an understanding.

"For somebody to have this decisive of an action, to walk in and pull the trigger, that's complete ignorance if you don't know who we are."