Shooting victims' families speak of their anguish

Six people were killed on Sunday by a former army soldier at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in the Milwaukee suburb of Oak Creek. Here are their stories.

Lokinder Kaur, centre, and her daughters Jasbir Kaur, 24, left, and Jaspreet Kaur, 21, right, mourn their husband and father Ranjeet Singh, who was killed in the shooting attack at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.
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MILWAUKEE // A religious leader willing to do anything for his beloved, tight-knit Sikh community. A former farmer who left his fields in rural northern India and found a new home at the temple. A joke-telling Sikh priest whose family had just arrived from India. The mother who gave everything of herself for her family and her faith. A pair of brothers who lived together a half a world away from their family to serve as temple priests.

These six were killed on Sunday by a former army soldier at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in the Milwaukee suburb of Oak Creek. Here are their stories.

'Your dad's a hero'

The president of the temple died defending his gift to the next generation.

Satwant Singh Kaleka, 65, managed to find a simple butter knife in the temple and tried to stab the gunman even after being shot twice near the hip or upper leg, his son said.

Amardeep Singh Kaleka said FBI agents hugged him on Sunday, shook his hand and said, "Your dad's a hero" for fighting to the death while protecting others.

"Whatever time he spent in that struggle gave the women time to get cover" in the kitchen, Mr Kaleka said. One of the women was his mother, who called police using her cellphone while hiding from the gunman.

Relatives said Kaleka dedicated his life to the members of the Oak Creek temple, of which he was considered the founder. He was also one of the lead investors in the building's construction.

His nephew Jatinder Mangat said Kaleka was always willing to help out with any job.

"He doesn't care what he's wearing, what he's doing, he'll just be there for you," Mr Mangat said. "We used to say 'It's OK, we'll have somebody else do it,' and he'd say, 'No, no, I'll do it,' even if it was a dirty job. He'll do anything."

'She prayed every day'

Paramjit Kaur finished her morning prayers, a daily ritual for the deeply spiritual mother of two, and walked into the temple's front hallway Sunday and was fatally shot.

Kaur's friends remembered the 41-year-old wife as sweet, outspoken and devoted to her family and her faith. They said she was also hard-working - spending 11 hours a day, 6 days a week, in production at a medical devices firm to provide for her children.

"I'll miss her so much," said 42-year-old Manpreet Kaur, of Franklin, who described herself as Paramjit Kaur's closest friend. They are not related.

Manpreet Kaur said that when she gave birth to her son this year, Paramjit Kaur would visit her in the hospital after she got off work, bearing food for the new mom.

"She always knew what I needed and would bring it for me," said Kaur, who noted that Paramjit Kaur had been a recent immigrant to the United States when she herself arrived seven years ago.

Co-worker Baljit Kaur, 45, of West Allis, said Paramjit Kaur talked incessantly and was very friendly. She was also very religious, Baljit Kaur said.

"She prayed every day for an hour to an hour and a half, even when she working," Baljit Kaur said.

'He loved all peoples'

Suveg Singh Khattra was a constant presence at the temple. Most days, his son, a taxi driver, would drop him off there to pray.

Khattra and his wife moved to the United States eight years ago to join their son. On Sunday, the former farmer, 84, from northern India, was shot and killed.

"He don't have hatred for anybody. He loved to live here," said son Baljinder Khattra, who moved from the family's farm in Patiala, a city in Punjab, in 1994.

The elder Khattra spoke no English, communicating instead with neighbours and friends with his hands.

"He [was] very humble. He loved all peoples," Kaur's son, Mandeep Khattra, said.

The joke-telling priest

Prakash Singh's wife and teenage children were living in the temple. Recently, they had moved from India to join the Sikh priest in Wisconsin.

Navdeep Gill, 18, a temple member from Franklin, said Singh had rented an apartment nearby and his family was due to move in by the end of the month. Singh's son and daughter will start school soon; the daughter is in high school and the son is going to be a freshman in high school.

As a Sikh priest, Singh performed daily services, which would have included recitations from the religion's holy book, leading prayers and lecturing on how to practice Sikhism.

Gill said Singh had a fun-loving personality - "telling jokes and whatnot" - and looked nothing close to his age of 39.

Brothers in blood and faith

Ranjit and Sita Singh shared the bonds of brotherhood - as siblings and as Sikh priests, both in Wisconsin to serve their faith. The rest of their family is in India, left to make sense of their deaths.

Ten years ago, Ranjit Singh, 49, came to the US for better opportunities. Once here, he made it his responsibility to take care of everyone who visited the temple.

The temple's secretary, Inderjeet Singh Dhillon, 56, said that Singh made sure guests were well fed, even if he couldn't always express it in English. Mr Dhillon remembered an occasion when five English-speaking visitors stopped in and Singh insisted - using only gestures that made those at the temple who knew him laugh - on "food for everybody".

It was the same with Singh's brother, Sita Singh, 41, who had arrived in the United States a year ago. Though Sita Singh was quieter than his brother, he was no less dedicated to the temple's visitors. Both men lived at the temple.

Mr Dhillon said that the younger Singh would wake up every morning between 4.30 and 5 to read the Sikh holy book. Afterward, he would see which visitors had come in and ensure all had prasad, the food offering given at the end of every prayer session.

"It was very important to him that whoever came always left with prasad," Mr Dhillon said.

The elder Singh brother became a mentor to some of the temple members, including Shehbazdeep Kaleka, 19, the nephew of the temple president.

Mr Kaleka said he turned to Ranjit Singh when he was down and needed advice, because Singh was a positive person.

Singh's most common advice was to sing and sing loudly - it didn't matter what or how well - and that would lift his spirits.

"It worked every time," Mr Kaleka said, pausing. "He was a very good and honest man. He didn't deserve to die."