Temple Shooting Victim Had Just Completed Her Prayer, Son Says
(CNN) — The older son of a woman killed at Sunday’s mass shooting in Wisconsin said she was shot just after completing prayers.
Paramjit Kaur, 41, was one of six killed at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek.
When Kaur was in the temple praying, “My aunt told her that there was a shooting going on outside, we need to get up and leave,” said 20-year-old son Kamal Saini. “Rather than just getting up and leaving, she wanted to just bow down and pray for the last time and then get up and leave. She was just getting up. She was shot in the back.”
Kaur and her family immigrated to the United States eight years ago. Last month, her family made its first visit to India since then.
“She was a good woman. She was a great mom,” said a younger son, Harpreet Saini, 18.
“She lived for us. She worked for us. Anything she did, it was for us,” said Kamal Saini. “If there wasn’t enough to eat it was always us before she ate.”
Her dream was for her sons to be educated. “She told us education is everything here,” said Kamal.
Both young men plan to pursue careers in law enforcement. “I wanted her to see me in uniform,” Kamal Saini said.
The victims were being remembered this week in a series of vigils.
Hundreds attended a memorial for the victims at a Sikh center in the town of Brookfield Monday, with the line of supporters overflowing outside the temple, CNN Milwaukee affiliate WTMJ reported.
“I think it’s a sad day for all of us. It’s horrific what happened,” said Harbander Sithi.
The Sikh American community called for a national moment of silence on Sunday.
A posting on the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund’s website asked for observances at churches, mosques, synagogues and other places of worship. It said the community hopes such a gesture “will send the message of blessings for all, and that we stand united against hate and intolerance and as part of a common humanity.”
The vicitims were identified by police as Kaur and five men — temple president Satwant Singh Kaleka, 65; Sita Singh, 41; Ranjit Singh, 49; Prakash Singh, 39, and Suveg Singh, 84. A wake and visitation are scheduled for Friday morning at a nearby high school gymnasium, according to an online posting by the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin.
Several years ago, Kaleka put a large American flag in the front of his yard, raising the eyebrows of his children, who thought it might be considered an eyesore.
Kaleka pointed out there were no homes nearby with flags, and he wanted to show that the United States was a land of opportunity, said his son, Amardeep Kaleka.
“He lived the American dream,” Amardeep Kaleka told CNN. His father brought his family to the United States with little money but a strong work ethic in the early 1980s. The flag also was a form of protection for the family, Satwant Kaleka told them.
It stood at half-staff Monday evening as the family grieved.
Amardeep Kaleka said people called to tell him that his father saved many lives Sunday.
The son said he was not surprised his father tried to stop the gunman at the temple.
“It’s an amazing act of heroism, but it’s also exactly who he was,” Amardeep Kaleka told CNN Milwaukee affiliate WTMJ. “There was no way in God’s green Earth that he would allow somebody to come in and do that without trying his best to stop it.”
Amardeep Kaleka said the FBI told him his father attacked the shooter in the lobby, resulting in a “blood struggle.” A knife close to the victim’s body showed blood on it, he said.
“From what we understand, he basically fought to the very end and suffered gunshot wounds while trying to take down the gunman,” said Kanwardeep Singh Kaleka, Satwant’s nephew.
Satwant Kaleka’s wife, Satpal, hid with several other women, telling them to remain quiet during the horrific incident.
The gunman came into the kitchen and shot and wounded two women, she told CNN. “I grabbed everybody and said run, run to the pantry.”
Amardeep Kaleka said his father worked hard and was an honest man.
“I would love for them (the public) to know that he lived his life with the principles that he knew and he was taught at a young age. It made him highly successful in America.”
Another victim, Suveg Singh, spent every day at the temple, said his granddaughter, Sandeep Khattra.
“He is always there, and he’s with the community and anybody who is willing to listen,” said Khattra. “He educated them about our religion.”
The victim’s family told CNN they will return to their temple. His son, Baljander Singh Khattra, said Suveg Singh was friendly and a “very strong person.”
Prakash Singh was a priest who recently immigrated to the United States with his wife and two young children, said Justice Singh Khalsa, a temple member since the 1990s.
President Barack Obama signed a proclamation honoring the victims, ordering that U.S. flags be flown at half-staff at federal facilities and buildings.
The Rev. Paul Armstrong of Oak Creek Community United Methodist Church, site of a Monday evening prayer vigil, said the diverse array of faiths in the community have an opportunity to further deepen bonds. “There’s a few of us who will be calling folks together to organize some more interfaith services,” he told CNN.
“Being in mission to the world is something we share,” Armstrong said of his faith and the Sikh community. “Their hospitality is wonderful. That is something the Christian community is called to do.”
The vigil was held outdoors, and a survivor of the temple shooting spoke, according to Armstrong.
“The focus was to express our sorrow and that all of us can be lights of the world,” he said.
By the CNN Wire Staff
CNN’s Poppy Harlow and Phil Gast contriuted to this report.
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