Priest Paralyzed in Mass Shooting at Sikh Temple in Wisconsin Dies from Injuries

Priest Paralyzed in Mass Shooting at Sikh Temple in Wisconsin Dies from Injuries

A prominent Sikh priest who was paralyzed during a mass shooting at a suburban Milwaukee temple in 2012, a hate crime in which six other people were killed, has died from his injuries.

The priest, Baba Punjab Singh, 72, died on Monday as a result of complications from a bullet wound to his head, said the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner, which ruled Mr. Singh’s death a homicide.

His death stirred painful memories of the shooting at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek, where a white supremacist with a semiautomatic handgun burst into the sprawling complex and opened fire before he was killed by the police.

Mr. Singh was shot in the cheek and the bullet exited through the back of his head, leaving him with an anoxic brain injury and unable to breathe on his own, according to the medical examiner’s report.

Raghuvinder Singh, one of Mr. Singh’s two sons, said in an email on Wednesday that his father, who went by the name Baba ji, still managed to communicate with family members and other visitors by blinking.

“Even when I regularly visited him in the hospital after his paralysis, I would ask him, ‘Are you living in chardi kala,’ the Sikh spirit of eternal optimism?” Raghuvinder Singh said. “Each time, without fail, he would blink twice to say ‘yes.’”

The rampage, characterized by law enforcement officials as an act of domestic terrorism, prompted the Justice Department to track hate crimes against several religious groups, including Sikhs, who have said that they are frequently mistaken for Muslims since the Sept. 11 attacks.

Followers of Sikhism, or Gurmat, a monotheistic faith founded in the 15th century in South Asia, typically don’t cut their hair. Men often wear colorful turbans and refrain from cutting their beards.

“My father’s injuries and his passing, along with the other lives lost that day, are a reminder of the toxic hate that still plagues our country,” Raghuvinder Singh said. “But I want Baba ji to be remembered by the values, inspired by Sikhi, that he exemplified every day — including love, equality, humility, eternal optimism and service to others.”

Baba Punjab Singh was born Aug. 11, 1947, in Dhurkot, which is in eastern Pakistan in the province of Punjab. He traveled around the world delivering kathas, orations that share the lessons and history of the Sikh faith, his family said.

“He was very well respected,” Stephen Scaffidi, the mayor of Oak Creek at the time of the shooting, said in an interview on Wednesday.

Oak Creek is the southernmost municipality in Milwaukee County and has about 35,000 residents. The temple was founded in 1997 and had about 400 worshipers at the time of the shooting.

Mr. Scaffidi, who wrote a book about the shooting titled “Six Minutes in August,” said the temple’s members have become very involved in the community since the shooting. He said he would often join local Sikhs for a communal meal on Sundays, known as a langar, and drink chai with them.

“It’s something I think about every day,” he said of the shooting. “It’s changed my life.”

In addition to his sons, Mr. Singh is survived by his wife, two daughters and eight grandchildren. A 48-hour recitation of Sikh Holy Scriptures will begin on Thursday afternoon, followed by a funeral on Saturday.

The Sikh Coalition, a national civil liberties group, paid tribute to Mr. Singh on Twitter.

“His outlook on life will always serve as a reminder that love is stronger than hate, and that we are strongest when we come together,” the group said.

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