On Tuesday, NBC broke the news that an American died over the weekend fighting for ISIS, according to the Free Syrian Army. The White House later confirmed his death.
The man, Douglas McAuthur McCain, was born on Jan. 29, 1981, in Illinois, but he mostly grew up in Minnesota.
His classmates described him as "always smiling" and said he had a good sense of humor. They also said McCain liked to play basketball.
After McCain graduated from high school, he stayed in the Twin Cities for several years. He was arrested twice: once for disorderly conduct, and again for obstruction.
While he might not have seemed religious in high school, according to his Twitter account — where he referred to himself as "Duale Khalid" — he converted to Islam when he was 23.
He eventually moved to San Diego and studied at San Diego City College. It's unclear if he graduated. He worked at a Somali restaurant called African Spice to help pay the bills. He also frequented the Masjid Nur mosque, an acquaintance of his told NBC.
"He was a normal guy, who was social, open-minded, like to smile always, and always wanted to be a good Muslim," the man said.
One of McCain's cousins spoke to the Minneapolis Star Tribute and said that McCain had been working in San Diego as "a care giver to clients with special needs" and had a daughter who "was nearing her first birthday."
The man, who asked to speak anonymously, reportedly said that while "I don't know what he went over there for, I don't want people to get the idea that he was some kind of monster."
In his twenties, McCain was an aspiring rapper. He once traveled to Sweden to perform.
Based on what he shared on Twitter and Facebook between 2010–2013, McCain got increasingly extremist.
He went by "Duale ThaslaveofAllah" on Facebook and as "Duale Khalid" on Twitter, where his bio reads: "Its Islam over everything."
In December 2012, McCain changed his profile picture to this: an image of Troy Kastigar, a Minnesota man who died in Somalia in September 2009 after joining an Islamic extremist group there.
In the comments of the picture, McCain wrote that Kastigar was: "One of the realize niggas I know."
Kastigar, 28, converted to Islam and reportedly had no ties to Somalia before leaving America to join the militant group al-Shabaab; there is a large Somalian population in Minnesota, however, and the New York Times reported that he loved to play basketball and was on a traveling team with several Somalians.
It seems likely that Kastigar and McCain were childhood friends. They both graduated from Robbinsdale Cooper High School in New Hope, Minn., in 1999. The class photo shows McCain and Kastigar standing next to each other.
McCain took a break from Twitter between January 2013 and May 2014, when he tweeted this:
He then began tweeting almost exclusively about Islam and ISIS. He retweeted this English translation of the speech that ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani gave in his first public appearance.
NBC reported that around May, McCain traveled to Turkey, which is a common route jihadists take to Syria. On Twitter, he continued to support ISIS. For example, he retweeted this:
And shared his thoughts on Islam:
In June, McCain tweeted at an alleged member of ISIS, saying he would be "joining" him soon, and later said that he was "with the brothers now."
This past weekend, two Syrian opposition groups battled with many casualities on both sides. The rebels searched through the pockets of the deceased, and when they came across McCain, they allegedly found $800 in cash and an American passport.
NBC said it has seen pictures of his body and travel documents and believes that the man who died was McCain.
McCain was reportedly among three foreign jihadists who fought and died with ISIS in this past weekend's battle.
American government officials told NBC News they were aware that McCain was killed in Syria.
Dozens of Americans are suspected to have gone to fight with ISIS and other extremist groups in Syria. Earlier this month, an ISIS propaganda video purported to feature an American citizen. Last month, another ISIS video allegedly showed Moner Mohammad Abusalha, who grew up in Florida, carrying out a suicide attack in Syria.
"The threat we are most concerned about to the homeland is that of fighters like this returning to the U.S. and committing acts of terrorism," a senior administration official told NBC News.
One of his first cousins, Kenyata McCain, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that she had spoken with Douglas as recently as Friday, and that he told her he was still in Turkey.
"I know that he had strong Muslim beliefs," she said, "but I didn't know that he was in support of ISIS. I didn't think he would be."
However, she did mention that he posted something on Facebook that "said ISIS and he was in support of it."
McCain's aunt confirmed that he "passed" to NBC. His sister Delecia posted this set of pictures to Facebook:
She also posted this note about her brother's death:
I really don't understand why and how and I have no words, I never thought this will be the way we say goodbye. You where my oldest brother, my biggest headache, the one I argue with the most, my words when I needed you to be. I can hear you now saying "lele guess what, I'm awesome" and that big brother you are This is absolutely unreal to me I love you big brother — feeling numb.
McCain's mother posted an image of a Bible verse — Numbers 6: 24-26 — before deleting her Facebook page.
Many of McCain's relatives have been posting messages of remembrance on their Facebook pages as well.
Other family members claim not to believe the allegations that McCain was a terrorist.
This was McCain's last tweet:
In his last reply, he was enquiring after the safety of an alleged ISIS member.
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