FindLaw Blotter - The FindLaw Crime and Criminals Blog

Was Wis. Sikh Temple Shooting a Hate Crime?

The Sikh temple shooter may have been motivated by prejudice but does that make Sunday's tragedy a hate crime?

Wade Michael Page, who was identified as the shooter at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, has been investigated and the findings are troubling. He was a member of a racist skinhead band in 2010 and tried to purchase goods from the National Alliance, a neo-Nazi group, as early as 2000.

If the attack was racially motivated, it should be classified as a hate crime. But accomplishing that can be difficult.

A hate crime is any crime that uses violence or the threat to violence to harm or intimidate people based on their race, religion, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or disability.

Crimes committed in a place of worship are often hate crimes because they target individuals based on their religion.

Sikhs rights groups have seen an increase in prejudice fueled attacks since 2001. Sikhs have been accused of ties to the Taliban and other extremist groups even though the Sikh religion is unrelated to Islam, reports CBS News.

As many as 700 Sikhs have been the target of racist attacks since 2001, reports Sikh Coalition.

One of the problems with protecting the Sikh community is that the FBI does not track data on hate crimes against Sikhs, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. It does track violence against other minority groups.

That makes it difficult for the government to provide information on preventing such crimes in the future.

Reporting hate crimes is an important way to improve prevention strategies. Victims also have legal remedies for hate crimes in addition to the traditional remedies for victims of crimes. An attorney can help you figure out your rights.

Page was killed during Sunday's attack in a shootout with police officers.

Had he lived there is a possibility the shooting could be charged as a hate crime. His racist affiliations could provide evidence that Page's motive included prejudice.

In April, 92 members of Congress urged the FBI to start tracking hate crimes against the Sikh community, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Perhaps Sunday's tragedy will reignite that discussion.

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