Scholar saw no hint of violence in supremacist
Published: Thursday, August 9, 2012
Updated: Thursday, August 9, 2012 15:08
Years before Wade Michael Page stormed into a Sikh temple in suburban
Milwaukee, killing six and critically wounding three others, he spent time in
California with a scholar who was researching white supremacist groups.
The man who authorities said Wednesday shot himself in the head after being
wounded by a police officer during Sunday's attack never struck Pete Simi as
Simi, then a graduate student at the University of Nevada doing research in
Orange County, said in an interview 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 he give any impression that he could become a mass killer.
"I never said, 'This is the guy,' " said Simi, now a criminologist at the
University of Nebraska at Omaha.
Page did, however, display vivid signs of the racist worldview Simi was
studying. As they headed to lunch at a favorite pizza parlor in Orange,
Calif., 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."
Simi described his contact with Page from 2001 to 2003, when Page lived in the
Old Towne Orange section with a housemate who shared his white-supremacist
Page told Simi that his stint in the U.S. Army, which lasted from 1992 to
1998, contributed to his beliefs, both because he met at least two fellow
troops who were white supremacists and because the Army struck him as
anti-white. Page was discharged for a pattern of misconduct.
As Page saw it, "whites were punished while blacks got coddled," Simi said.
"The deck was stacked against whites in the military, and he realized all of
society was structured that way."
Simi said Page met white-supremacist musicians in 2000 at Georgia's Hammerfest
_ one of the biggest white-power music festivals in the country. Within
months, he moved to Southern California to get into the music scene.
"Before he ever got into neo-Nazi stuff, he was a lover of music," Simi said.
"He loved Rush, the band, and he would talk about how much he respected and
admired their music." Page shaved his head and wore a tattoo of a German
soldier on his calf, he said.
As part of Simi's research, he visited Page's house regularly and slept on the
couch, hanging out with him for days at a time. They went to bars and
white-supremacist rock events. Page played bass guitar in an Orange
County-based white-power band, Youngland, which appeared at bars and music
Page worked sporadically as a machinist, drank heavily and frustrated his
friends by sponging off them, Simi said. Page had moved out of the house by
the summer of 2004, he said.
Around that time, Page moved to North Carolina, where he also had a checkered
He worked about seven months at a Fayetteville Harley-Davidson dealer but was
fired in 2004 for clashing with female staff and supervisors. John Tew,
general manager at the dealership, said Page "dressed and acted like a
neo-Nazi from Day One" and, on the day he was fired, left behind an
application to join the Ku Klux Klan. When Page returned for it, Tew told him
he'd thrown it away.
"That's the road he wanted to go down," Tew said in an interview.
In August 2010, Page was fired from his job of four years as a truck driver
for Barr-Nunn Transportation Inc., based in Granger, Iowa. Page _ who still
lived in North Carolina _ had been cited for impaired driving, the company
said in a statement.
During Simi's California research, some white supremacists bristled at the
thought of a researcher in their midst, he said, but Page "seemed very open
about describing his beliefs." His worldview included virulent anti-Jewish
rhetoric, hatred of affirmative action, disdain for multiculturalism, and
"He expressed frustration that more whites weren't standing up and defending
themselves," Simi said. "He felt music was one way to try to do that."
Page found camaraderie in Orange County's white-power music scene, Simi said.
"He told me it changed his life."
After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Simi said, Page expressed anger at Muslims
and said in an email that the Middle East should be bombed. Sikhs, who wear
turbans and facial hair, are sometimes mistaken for Muslims.
(Goffard reported from Orange County, Calif., and Hennessy-Fiske from