Sikh temple gunman had neo-Nazi past in Orange County
Wade Michael Page, the gunman in a deadly shooting spree at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, had spent several years in Orange County, first drawn to the area in 2001 by its white power music scene, according to a scholar who knew him at the time.
Page lived in Old Towne Orange from 2001 to 2004, according to Pete Simi, then a graduate student who spent time with Page as part of his research into white supremacist groups. Simi said Page lived with a housemate who shared his white supremacist views and played in a local white power band, while also working sporadically as a machinist.
Now a criminologist at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, Simi said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times that his dissertation took him into bars filled with neo-Nazis, where he frequently felt frightened.
But not by Page. "When I was with him individually, I felt pretty comfortable," Simi said.
Page kept rifles in his bedroom but expressed no animus toward Sikhs, he said. Nor did Page give any impression that he could become a mass killer.
"I never said, 'This is the guy,' " Simi said.
Page did, however, display vivid signs of the racist worldview Simi was studying. As they headed to lunch at a favorite pizza parlor in Old Town Orange during the holiday season, Page froze at the sight of a stained-glass menorah on the door.
"He freaked out. He said, 'I'm not going in there; I'm not going to open the door,' " Simi said.
"I said, 'What if I hold the door open for you? Will you walk through so I can eat some pizza?' He was willing to do that," Simi recalled. "It's the principle that anything Jewish is contamination." And yet, he said, "He'd eat the pizza made there."
-- Christopher Goffard and Molly Hennessy-Fiske