Oak Creek Press Conference Remarks From United States Attorney James Santelle, Eastern District of Wisconsin
Chief, thank you. My name is James Santelle, I’m the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, and I am the principal in chief federal law enforcement officer for this federal district.
On behalf of Attorney General Eric Holder, I want to convey the profound sympathy and deep sorrow of the United States Department of Justice to all the members of the Sikh community here in Oak Creek, throughout this district, throughout the state of Wisconsin, and throughout the nation. The terrible event that we witnessed yesterday should not be a part of America. The President of the United States of America yesterday also conveyed his similar condolences and his sympathies to this population and to all citizens of the United States of America who are caring, and loving, and justice seeking.
We are profoundly saddened by the events yesterday and the work that has been done by this law enforcement community, about which I will speak in a moment of so, is a reflection of, and is animated principally by our profound respect and great sorrow about the losses the Sikh community has suffered in the past 24 hours. Our hearts are deep, our sadness is profound and we share with you great tears.
The chief has already spoken this morning about the response to this time by state, local and federal law enforcement. I want to comment more on that and assure all the members of the citizenry here in Wisconsin, the members of the Sikh Temple and all those who may be watching in businesses and homes around the country, that law enforcement has been prompt, responsive, focused and targeted virtually since the very moment the initial calls came in about this matter.
We speak often about the partnership that happens here in Wisconsin and throughout this country between federal, state and local law enforcement. That is a result of the directive and the animation provided by our Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General, by United States Attorneys around the country and by all of our state and local and tribal partners. That partnership, that cooperation, that collaboration animated and has animated every moment since 24 hours ago today. It is fair to say that the tremendous work still ongoing has resulted today in some of the findings that the chief and my colleagues will discuss with you in a moment or so, is a direct result of that very cooperative, very focused and very collaborative association and partnership among law enforcement. We could not benefit more from the tremendous assistance and support provided by the Oak Creek Police Department and by all of our federal, state and local colleagues. As the chief just said, Oak Creek is secure, and the people of Oak Creek, the people of Eastern Wisconsin, the people of the State of Wisconsin, and the people of this nation should know that we are continuing to do everything in our powers and beyond to ensure that that remains the case. There is no reason for the citizenry of Oak Creek to be concerned today about repetition of this kind of activity at the Sikh Temple or based upon other pursuits of this law enforcement effort that are ongoing today.
Among other things that many of you have reported on the important and productive work of the Brookfield Police Department, for example, in ensuring the continued safety of the Sikh Temple in that community. That is an example of the kind of concentrated and focused and target that law enforcement continues to use at this time. I am very proud of that and all of you should be proud of that as well. It is fair to say that people in this room and beyond have not slept in 24 hours. Not that that is all that important but it is a commitment to ensuring that this community including the members of the congregation of the Sikh Temple know that their law enforcement, know that their elected officials, know that their appointed officials not only take this seriously but regard this kind of activity as at the top of our responsibilities as responsible law enforcement, leaders and leaders of this community. That kind of commitment will continue today, tomorrow and the weeks ahead and the months ahead and in the years ahead, and the Sikh community should know that we remain committed to ensuring your safety and your security here in Oak Creek and around the nation. That is the commitment of this Attorney General, of this President and of all of us in federal, state, local and tribal government here in the state of Wisconsin.
We share, as I said, in your great sorrow. Inside that all important and continuing law enforcement work, I would like to join the chief in his comments about the critically important and prompt responsive work of the first responders on the scene. He has already described to you some of the specifics of those events. Horrific, terrible, life threatening, and life taking. One of those officers’ remains today in the careful care and thoughtful treatment at Froedtert Hospital. And our hearts are with him, and with his family and others. Just as they are with the other victims who are not with us today-members of the Sikh family. Know that that kind of dedicated response of law enforcement is not atypical. This is what we come to expect by representatives of the Oak Creek Police Dept. under this chief’s leadership. This is what we expect from state law enforcement, federal law enforcement, and that’s what the people of this nation get. We get people who are committed to doing their jobs, who identify a problem and are not hesitant in responding to it.
We can provide you down the road with more information about the time periods, and the focuses of things that have happened in the past 24 hours that are ongoing to this day. But know that that kind of commitment to those responders yesterday, at just about this time in the morning has been typical of the 24 hours since then. Focused, collaborative law enforcement that is producing significant results in our continued pursuit of this investigation. Inside that, as the chief indicated, we have every reason to believe that there was only one shooter and that there are not others presently involved, although our investigation to that end continues. I also want to comment on the chief’s commitment to, which we all join in, in further community outreach and community support.
I have been in touch with the community relations service of the U.S. Department of Justice, with Tom Perez who is the Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division, with local, state and other officials who join me and all of us in ensuring that in the hours, days and weeks ahead, we will be with you and we will be supporting you and assisting you in this terrible time of challenge and great sorrow. That is a commitment as strong as is our law enforcement commitment and know that we will be with you today and always. That also is a part of this attorney general’s community outreach and the commitment that each one of us makes to ensure that we are safe and secure. We pursue law enforcement because we are committed to safety and security of the Sikh community, of all faith communities and of all people in this country and our community outreach in the days just ahead, led by the mayor, led by the chief, led by our state attorney general, our national attorney general and others is a part of that important work.
In that connection, I would also like to comment a bit about the Sikh faith. This is as all of you know, not the first time that the Sikh community in this country has been the target of horrific violence. Many of you know, all of you should know, that one of the first casualties after the horrific violence of September 11th of 2001 was visited upon a gas station owner in Arizona who was brutally beaten and gunned down by someone who thought he was Muslim. He was not, he was Sikh. The Muslim faith is not the Sikh faith and let me talk to you a bit about that faith. In doing so, I do not pretend to know what the Sikh faith is all about, but I was most honored a couple years ago to be in India and to have some opportunities to speak with some members of your faith. And in those conversations and those contacts, admittedly not deep, not prolonged and much too short, I came to appreciate that the Sikh faith is of love, is a faith of education, is a faith of support of families, is a faith supremely committed to work and to the nation of which the faith exists. There is a concept I understand inside the faith community that even in the midst of profound adversity, profound challenge, profound danger of the sort we saw here yesterday in Oak Creek, that we have optimism that is a part of this wondrous and tremendous faith of Sikhism. That is what we embrace today, even as we go forward in this tragic time. Know that all of us in law enforcement, all of us in government, all of us outside of government are with members of the Sikh community and although we may not completely understand all the faiths in this country, that is what America is about. We’re about diversity in all things, in color, in creed, in religion, in belief, and that is what we embrace today.
As I said, that is also what animates our important and focused law enforcement effort today, tomorrow, and for many tireless and unending hours in the future. I am so very proud to be a part of the government that serves this community, that serves the Sikh Temple here in Oak Creek and serves the entire Sikh community in the State of Wisconsin, and throughout the nation. Our Attorney General is likewise committed to ensuring that all peoples of all faith including those in the Sikh community understand that we are with you. We stand with you today in this time of sorrow, and will remain committed to you for all the times ahead to ensure that the horrific violence visited upon you unfairly, unjustly, and wrongly yesterday morning does not recur.
I will be able to answer more questions after the additional presentations by my colleagues. Those colleagues include Teresa Carlson, who is the special agent in charge of the FBI who has been leading this investigation in partnership with the chief of the Oak Creek Police Department, and also with Bernard Zapor who is the special agent in charge of the ATF, who likewise has been like Teresa, critical and instrumental in ensuring that this investigation, collaborative with state and local authorities is focused and targeted.
At this time, I would like to call upon Ms. Teresa Carlson, special agent of the FBI to comment further upon some, but not all of the results of this investigation and in that connection both as anticipation of her comments and the remarks that Mr. Zapor is going to deliver as well, I would simply like to comment about this. We are 24 hours out in the pursuit of the horrific events of yesterday. We are continuing and actively at this time with this investigation and there are many things that Teresa and Bernard, and others will not be able to comment about this morning. That is not to say that there will never be a time we will not be able to talk about those things, but simply that at this time, as we balance the important and critical need of the Sikh community and for all populations throughout the state of Wisconsin and throughout this country to know the truth as we come forward today, we also need to balance that with a very significant and important law enforcement interests that are still out there being pursued by our agents, our officers and detectives of all kinds and so understand and I’m sure you will that although we are going to provide you with some additional information we will necessarily disappoint you in some respects because some of this is still a part of a very sensitive investigation . But as I said, this investigation pursued with integrity and focus and ultimate focus and importance on the security and safety of this community.