Pete Simi says that when he heard it was Wade Michael Page who police said killed six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin on Sunday, he felt "sick to my stomach."
Simi, a professor of criminology at the University of Nebraska, Omaha, and co-author of American Swastika, realized that he had talked to Page at length during his research on the white power movement in the United States.
Simi spoke to All Things Considered's Melissa Block this afternoon and told her that he has been thinking about whether he missed any red flags, anything that could have foretold a mass shooting.
Page, said Simi, certainly had a drinking problem and he also had a problem holding a job. He had tattoos and he saw a couple of rifles and was steeped in the music scene that drives the neo-Nazi skinhead groups.
Still, he said, "there wasn't anything that stood out, that really made me think that he was more of a threat than other people who hold these beliefs."
In other words, within the world of white power, where the rhetoric is often violent, Page was normal.
"This makes trying to determine who is more likely to be a threat extremely complicated and very difficult to do," he said.
Simi also said that he spoke to Page at length about his time in the military. Page told him that before he went into the military he had heard about the white power philosophy but the "military to him was an important experience in shaping how he saw the world."
"He told me specifically that if you don't go into the military a racist, you are certain to leave as one," Simi said. "He suggested that in the military the deck was completely stacked against white people, that African American personnel in the military were routinely promoted over whites when they didn't deserve it, that they weren't disciplined for misconduct, that they were coddled, that they were treated very preferentially as compared to whites."
When he left the military, Simi said, he came to believe that "the whole system was set up against whites."
Listen for Melissa's full interview with Simi on tonight's All Things Considered. We'll post audio of the as-aired interview later on tonight.