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updated: 8/15/2012 4:16 PM

Gunfire at Sikh temple audible in 911 tapes

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  • A white supremacist killed six worshippers and wounded three others on Aug. 5 at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis.

      A white supremacist killed six worshippers and wounded three others on Aug. 5 at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis.
    Associated Press

 
Associated Press

MILWAUKEE -- The woman's voice is hushed, but even in her whisper her terror is evident. In a barely audible voice she gives the 911 dispatcher the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin's address and pleads, "Hurry up, please."

The dispatcher already has fielded enough calls to surmise there's a shooter at the temple in suburban Milwaukee. She reassures the woman, "We've got help on the way. OK? OK? Ma'am?"

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The chilling exchange was among a series of 911 calls that flooded Milwaukee County's emergency services the morning of Aug. 5, when a white supremacist opened fire before a Sunday prayer service, killing six worshippers and wounding three others. The recordings were released Wednesday.

Sounds of apparent gunfire can be heard on some of the calls. On others, there are only several seconds of silence or muffled wails before the call get disconnected.

One of the earliest calls comes in about 10:25 a.m.

"There's a shooting," a man says frantically. A series of what sounds like gunshots can be heard in the background.

As the dispatcher tries to ask him whether anyone was hit, the man repeats, "There's a shooting. Shooting."

One woman reports she heard gunfire and that someone was shot. Another man calls and reports "many shooting, many gunfires."

At one point, with phones ringing nonstop, a dispatcher mutters, "Oh my god."

When the gunfire began in the parking lot, two children raced into the kitchen and warned people to take cover. The only hiding place was a small pantry that has enough room for three to four people stand comfortably. With no other choice, 13 women, along with a man and the two kids, crammed inside for almost two hours.

One caller apparently was a woman who was hiding inside the temple. She told the dispatcher, "We need help, somebody shooting outside." The dispatcher asked if she had seen the shooter.

The woman replied, "I don't know, we have to hide now." The dispatcher told her police were on the scene and the woman said, "OK, thank you." She lowered her voice to a whisper and repeated, "Thank you."

One of the callers was a man who lived nearby.

"Yes, I need an ambulance," he said. "Guy came to my house, he's lying in my front yard bleeding."

Outside the temple, the gunman also ambushed and shot and wounded a police officer who responded to the 911 calls. The gunman fatally shot himself in the head after being wounded by another officer.

FBI investigators say they're hoping to learn as much about the gunman's motive as they can but acknowledge they may never know for certain why he chose to attack the temple.

Temple officials have since fixed most of the damage, repairing shattered windows and painting walls. But they left one dime-sized bullet hole unrepaired as a memorial to the victims.

A small gold plate below the hole is engraved with "We Are One. 8-5-12"

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