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New Details In Chattanooga Shooting Reveal How Unarmed Marines Fled From Shooter

Officials described scenes of chaos as service members, prohibited from carrying firearms at recruitment centers, tried to escape as Mohammad Abdulazeez continued to shoot at them.

Originally posted on
Updated on

What We Know So Far

  • Four Marines were fatally shot during attacks at two military facilities Thursday.
  • A Naval Petty Officer who was injured in the shooting died Saturday.
  • One of the victims was identified by family as Purple Heart recipient Thomas Sullivan.
  • The gunman, Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, was also killed.
  • Several people, including a police officer and a Marine Corps recruiter, were wounded. The wounded officer was identified as Dennis Pedigo.
  • U.S. Attorney Bill Killian said officials were treating the attacks as an "act of domestic terrorism."
  • President Obama called the attacks "heartbreaking" and said the FBI would lead a "full investigation."
  • Abdulazeez's family expressed sorrow for the shooting Saturday, saying "we express our deepest sympathies and condolences to the families of the honorable service members and police officers who were victims of the shooting our son committed on Thursday in Chattanooga."

Updates

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Mohammad Abdulazeez only took three to five minutes to shoot at several marines, a majority of whom were unarmed as per rules prohibiting firearms at military recruitment centers, the Associated Press reported.

Officials on Wednesday described a scene of chaos where unarmed marines had to fend for themselves and protect others while running from Abdulazeez who was armed with an assault rifle, handgun and a vest of ammunition.

Military personnel are prohibited from possessing firearms at recruitment centers and facilities, although one service member fired at Abdulazeez when he saw him approaching, the AP reported. At least two guns belonging to service members were recovered, prompting the military to investigate where they were authorized for use.

Abdulazeez "continued to shoot those he encountered" at the reserve center, killing four marines and fatally wounding a sailor, FBI Knoxville Special Agent in Charge Ed Reinhold said at Wednesday's press conference.

The incident has prompted armed volunteers to show up at military recruiting sites to protect unarmed recruiters.

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Asaad Ibrahim Asaad Haj Ali, the uncle of Mohammad Abdulazeez, is being investigated over the time the suspected shooter stayed with him in Jordan to get away from drugs, alcohol and bad company, the Associated Press reported.

A person close to the family told the AP that Abdulazeez was sent to Jordan to work in his uncle's cellphone business to get away from what his parents considered bad company as well as drug and alcohol abuse.

While Haj Ali's lawyer said his client had no militant links and was just helping out his family, a Jordanian official told the AP that authorities were "trying to get as much information as possible" from him. Haj Ali is now in custody while other family members are also being questioned.

The person close to the family described Abdulazeez's troubled history with depression, drugs and alcohol, saying he was sent to Jordan after he was denied insurance for an in-patient treatment program for his addictions.

Abdulazeez was fired from a job in 2013 because of a failed drug test and was arrested for driving under the influence in April this year, the AP reported. According to the officer's report, he had white powder under the nose which he claimed was "powdered caffeine."

He reportedly suffered from depression and lack of sleep and felt that he was a failure and that his life was worthless, according to documents found in his family home.

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President Obama on Tuesday ordered flags to be flown at half-staff to honor the four Marines and one Navy sailor who were killed in the Chattanooga attack.

The president's move followed congressional orders to lower flags at the U.S. Capitol.

The American flag atop the White House was lowered Tuesday as well as flags flown at all public buildings and grounds, including military posts, the Associated Press reported. The flags at these sites will continue to be flown at half-staff until sunset Saturday.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley also directed flags on state property to be lowered after Obama's proclamation Tuesday.

In South Carolina, the national and state flags were lowered last month after nine black parishioners were killed in Charleston during a shooting spree.

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An attorney announced Tuesday that his client, maternal uncle of Mohammad Abdulazeez, has been detained in Jordan since July 17, the Associated Press reported.

Abed al-Kader Ahmad al-Khateeb, who represents Abdulazeez's uncle Asaad Ibrahim Asaad Haj Ali, told the Associated Press that while Haj Ali's computers and cell phones were confiscated, he has not been charged with anything.

According to the AP, an anonymous Jordanian government official said that several of Abdulazeez's family members were being questioned about his extended stay in the country last year.

Abdulazeez stayed with his uncle while he was there, reportedly helping him with what Haj Ali's attorney calls a small cellphone business.

"The uncle is a regular person, he has a company, he is a businessman, he has no relation with any militant group or organization," al-Khateeb told the AP.

"He cares about his work and his family, and Muhammad is just his relative, the son of his sister. That's it."

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At the end of his remarks on the 116th National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, President Barack Obama honored the lives of the five victims of the shooting in Chattanooga on July 16.

He remarked on Gunnery Sgt. Tom Sullivan's devotion to Boston sports teams, and how his comrades said "he was just everything that a marine should be."

Sullivan earned two Purple Hearts and a Combat Action ribbon for two tours in Iraq, the president said, and when he "was warned that a gunman was there in Chattanooga, he ran in so that others could live."

Obama spoke of 21-year-old Skip Wells, who had just finished his basic training a year before his death. Wells, he said, was so proud to be a Marine that he attended his hometown's 4th of July parade in his dress uniform. The president talked about how, according to his friends, Wells was "always smiling, even during the hardest drills."

"David Wyatt would race up a mountain to be the first on top," Obama said. "He found his calling in the Marines."

The president told the audience about how Wyatt "led with courage and compassion" during his tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, and served as a mentor to comrades with post-traumatic stress. His wife called him a gentleman and a gentle man.

"Today we see, as they did, why a friend said 'Staff Sgt. David Wyatt was the kind of man this country needs more of,'" Obama said.

He called Carson Holmquist "the embodiment of the spirit of Gransburg, Wisconsin," where he was known for his affinities for country music, fishing, hunting, and football. The president remarked that the "nation is stronger because we saw the best of Carson Holmquist."

Randall Smith, he said, had just re-enlisted in the military. His high school still recognized him for his fierce baseball pitch, and he often referred to his wife as the most beautiful woman in the world. He also had two daughters, whom he called his princesses.

"Our nation endures because citizens like you put on the uniform and serve to keep us free," Obama said to the crowd of veterans.

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Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker issued an executive order today allowing the National Guard to carry weapons on duty in response to the Chattanooga shootings.

According to a statement the governor's office sent to BuzzFeed News, "Allowing our National Guard members to carry weapons while on duty gives them the tools they need to serve and protect our citizens, as well as themselves."

Gov. Walker added in his executive order that he would allow "Adjutant General Donald Dunbar to evaluate longer-term plans to ensure the safety of our service members."

Wisconsin joins Texas, Indiana, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma in issuing executive orders to increase the levels of weaponry and surveillance in light of the Tennessee shootings.

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Abdulazeez reportedly viewed material related to radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, as well as other militants.

Investigators searching for a motive in the Chattanooga shooting rampage said Mohammad Abdulazeez viewed material on his computer related to radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, the New York Times reported.

Al-Awlaki was an American-born leader of al Qaeda who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2011 in Yemen. He recruited for the terrorist group through videos and other writings online. Awlaki also influenced the gunman who killed 13 people at Fort Hood in 2009.

Officials are looking into any connections between Abdulazeez and a known terrorist group. There is a possibility he had help, such as receiving money to buy weapons, CBS reported.

In a personal journal, Abdulazeez wrote about his discontent with the U.S. military action in the Middle East. He also wrote about his drug use and depression.

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In response to the attack in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the U.S. military has issued a directive for new security measures at recruitment sites.

On Sunday night, Adm. William Gortney directed additional "force protection measures" at recruitment facilities, the Associated Press reported.

"The expanded measures are to increase vigilance and sustain security of military personnel and facilities," said military spokesman Capt. Scott Miller. He did not elaborate on what those measures would be.

However, The Wall Street Journal on Monday reported that the security protections allow recruiting centers and ROTC facilities to increase surveillance.

The security boost does not allow recruiters to carry weapons, but the Defense Department is currently considering what other protections it will permit, officials said.

Multiple states across the country have authorized National Guard personnel to take up arms to protect recruiting sites in the wake of the Chattanooga attack.

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An Abdulazeez family spokesperson told ABC News that a diary kept by the alleged Chattanooga shooter contained a history of suicidal thoughts and an admission of substance abuse.

The spokesperson, who continues to remain anonymous, said that Mohammad Abdulazeez chronicled these troubling thoughts as far back as 2013.

According to the journal, he wrote about taking "sleeping pills, opioids, painkillers and marijuana, along with alcohol," the representative told ABC.

Two days before the Chattanooga shooting that killed four people, the family representative said that Abdulazeez rented a silver Mustang, "showed up at the local mosque and took a friend on a 'joy ride' until 3 a.m." He did not return home afterwards.

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A family spokesperson for Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez on Monday said the alleged shooter was diagnosed with depression by a psychiatrist when he was 12 or 13 years old.

The family representative, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Associated Press that Mohammad Abdulazeez also "fought drug and alcohol abuse," which prompted a trip to Jordan to "clean himself up."

The spokesperson suggested that those troubles were at play when Abdulazeez opened fire at the two military facilities in Chattanooga.

"They do not know of anything else to explain it," the spokesperson said.

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Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam on Sunday ordered a review of security at National Guard facilities.

The governor also instructed the state's Department of Safety and Homeland Security commissioner to review the process for issuing to military members handgun carry permits, to see if it could be streamlined.

"All stateside U.S. military bases and stations are currently at a force protection status of 'Bravo,' and [Adjutant General Max Haston] will review with the U.S. Department of Defense all means within this status and the confines of current federal laws and regulations to ensure that facilities in Tennessee are secure," a statement from the governor's office said.

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Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez reportedly sent a text message to a friend which contained a link to a religious passage about "declaring war" just hours before he went on a rampage, according to reports.

Police is still investigating why Abdulazeez decided to go on a killing spree at a military recruiting centre in Chattanooga, Tennessee, last Thursday, but he was known to have spoken out against conflicts in the Middle East.

According to The New York Times, the link in the text message contained the following Islamic verse:

"Whosoever shows enmity to a friend of Mine, then I have declared war against him."

BuzzFeed News has been unable to confirm the text's authenticity.

The friend, who spoke to the local media on condition of anonymity, said at the time he didn't think much of the message, but now wonders if it was a sign of things to come.

Other friends also said that Abdulazeez became angry at events in the Middle East after returning from a trip to Jordan last year. He was allegedly very vocal about his opposition to the bombing campaign in Gaza and Syria.

"He had always talked about it, but I'd say his level of understanding and awareness really rose after he came back," said another one of his friends, who also chose to remain anonymous.

Abdulazeez is said to have bought three firearms online shortly after his return from Jordan. The weapons were allegedly used for target practice.

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Abdulazeez's family issued a statement Saturday expressing condolences to the victims' families.

The statement described the shooting as a "horrible crime" and a "heinous act of violence" that "grieves us beyond belief."

"There are no words to describe our shock, horror, and grief," the statement adds. "The person who committed this horrible crime was not the son we knew and loved."

The family adds that "it would be inappropriate to say anything more other than that we are truly sorry" for the loss suffered by the victims' families.

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Like his Texan counterpart, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence on Saturday also authorized his state's National Guard to carry weapons at state facilities.

Today I signed an Executive Order authorizing arming of @INGuardsman at state facilities/ recruiting offices: http://t.co/9piVOPNrBN

"As commander-in-chief of the Indiana National Guard, I will not permit our citizen-soldiers to remain unable to defend themselves and our citizens at facilities in our state," Pence said. "Hoosiers may be assured that those who have stepped forward to defend our state and nation will have the ability to defend themselves."

The governors of Louisiana and Arkansas have also taken similar steps.

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In response to the events at Chattanooga, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Saturday he would authorize members of his state's National Guard to carry weapons at military facilities.

I will authorize the Texas National Guard to arm National Guard personnel at military facilities across Texas. http://t.co/x8TeVlttLo

"It is with a heavy heart that I issue this order," Abbott said in a statement.

"After the recent shooting in Chattanooga, it has become clear that our military personnel must have the ability to defend themselves against these type of attacks on our own soil.

" Arming the National Guard at these bases will not only serve as a deterrent to anyone wishing to do harm to our service men and women, but will enable them to protect those living and working on the base," he said.

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The sailor who died from his injuries Saturday was named as Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith by South Carolina Senator Tim Scott.

Godspeed Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith, who succumbed to his injuries this morning. #Chattanooga

Ohio Governor John Kasich said Smith hailed from his state.

The murders in Chattanooga have claimed another victim, & Ohio has lost another hero. Prayers for Randall Smith of Paulding Co & his family.

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A Navy sailor who was injured in the Chattanooga shooting died from his injuries early Saturday, officials said.

The U.S. Navy released the following statement on Saturday morning:

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- A male Navy Petty Officer succumbed to wounds received in the July 16 shooting at the Navy Operational Support Center (NOSC) in Chattanooga, Tennessee July 18 at 2:17 a.m.

In total, four U.S. Marines and one Sailor were killed in the incident. His name will not be released until 24 hours after the next of kin process is completed.

The sailor's death brings the total death toll from the attack to six, including the shooter.

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Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security, on Friday called the deadly shootings in Chattanooga, Tennessee, an "ISIS inspired attack."

McCaul pointed out that investigators had not found a direct link to what motivated Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez to open fire Thursday morning at military facilities, but said his assessment was based on his experience.

As of Friday morning, McCaul said, Abdulazeez's electronic equipment was headed by plane to be inspected. Investigators were searching for any "foreign direction" to Thursday's attack.

McCaul's statements were made at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, Friday morning, where he spoke at length about ISIS efforts to recruit online.

"We've seen too much of this traffic," he said. "There are too many warning signs."

The Texas representative also told the New York Times that Abdulazeez's father had been previously put on a watch list that prohibited him from flying, but was taken off the list some time later.

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Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin released two announcements Friday authorizing the military to increase its security and defense measures at military centers in light of the shootings in Chattanooga.

In one statement, Fallin said she had authorized Oklahoma's adjutant general, Maj. Gen. Robbie L. Asher, "to arm full-time personnel at installations like the military facilities that were attacked Thursday."

She also gave military officials permission to arm "certain full-time military personnel" on military installations throughout Oklahoma.

Fallin issued an executive order on Friday that all American flags on state property be flown at half-staff from Friday afternoon until Monday morning in memory of those killed and injured in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

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A spokesperson for an energy company at which Abdulazeez was temporarily employed announced on Friday that he was let go after 10 days when "it was determined that he did not meet minimum requirements for ongoing employment."

FirstEnergy Corps, based in Cleveland, Ohio, released the following statement after recognizing Abdulazeez's face in the media.

Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez was conditionally employed as an engineer at FirstEnergy's Perry Nuclear Power Plant for a brief 10-day period from May 20 to May 30, 2013. Abdulazeez was never granted unescorted access and never entered the secured area of the plant.

Abdulazeez was dismissed because it was determined that he did not meet minimum requirements for ongoing employment.


During his brief conditional employment, Abdulazeez's access was limited to an administrative office building while he received general training on company procedures. He did not have access to any sensitive plant information.

Our employees are committed to plant security, and when Perry workers recognized Abdulazeez from media reports, they quickly notified plant management. Perry management then immediately informed the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Plant officials are fully cooperating with any requests from law enforcement as they conduct their investigation.

As a courtesy, plant management has also communicated with other government officials.
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"We will not leave any stone unturned," Killian said. "We have one common goal: To protect the safety and the national security of people in this country."

However, officials declined to provide much new information in the case, citing an ongoing investigation they said was still in its preliminary stages.

FBI Special Agent for Knoxville Ed Reinhold told reporters that it would also be premature to speculate on the shooter's motive, but that his team was "trying to figure out if he acted alone."

Reinhold, however, refuted allegations that the shooter, identified as Mohammad Abdulazeez, was influenced by any global terror organizations.

The FBI is so far following up on 70 leads, he added.

Chattanooga Police Chief Fred Fletcher added that he had spoken directly to all of the officers involved in the shooting, as well as their families, and victims' families.

He said they were "doing very well," and were grateful for the support from the community and nation.

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Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr. issued the following statement Friday on the Marine's Facebook page:

Facebook: marines
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BuzzFeed News's Mike Hayes is reporting from the Chattanooga area.

Memorial outside the Armed Forces Career Center where the Chattanooga shooter first opened fire Thursday

Gwen Gott of Chattanooga places four flags w/ purple ribbons for Purple Hearts at #ChattanoogaShooting memorial

Gott said she was "mad yesterday, but not today," she won't "let anger win."

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Chief of Navy Reserve Vice Adm. Robin R. Braun:

The entire Navy Reserve Force extends its deepest sympathies to the families of the United States Marines who were tragically killed at Navy Operational Support Center Chattanooga. Our thoughts and prayers are also with the Navy Reserve Sailor who was critically wounded during yesterday's shooting.

The Navy/Marine Corps team and, indeed, all of the military are like family. And, as family does, we stand together with our primary focus being to assist those who have been affected by this senseless tragedy.

We also want to thank the first responders in Chattanooga for their rapid response and support. As we move forward, the Navy Reserve is committed to working with law enforcement to ensure a full and thorough investigation.
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Chattanooga shooter Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez spent seven months last year in Jordan and, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, investigators are looking closely at that trip.

Investigators are looking to determine whether or not Abdulazeez may have had any contact with extremists during his extended stay in Jordan. They are also checking to see if, while in Jordan, he may have visited any other countries, a source close to the investigation told the WSJ.

According to a law enforcement source speaking to CNN, Abdulazeez, though born in Kuwait, held Jordanian citizenship, which could explain his trips to the country.

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The Chattanooga police officer who was injured in the shooting spree was identified by the Times Free Press as Dennis Pedigo.

Pedigo was reportedly shot in the ankle and is in stable condition.

The Ooltewah Youth Association, located about 20 miles outside of Chattanooga, said Pedigo is a volunteer and coach for the group.

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"Chattanooga is a great city with a broken heart," Mayor Andy Berke said just before midnight Thursday during a joint press conference with the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Sen. Bob Corker, who was also in attendance, said the nation was in mourning after four Marines were killed earlier in the day and another person left "fighting for their life." He appeared to be referencing a sailor who was seriously wounded in the attack.

Ed Reinhold, FBI special agent in charge, said there was no indication anyone else was involved in the attack carried out by 24-year-old Abdulazeez. "We have no idea what his motivation was" for the shooting, Reinhold said. A link between the gunman and international terrorism groups has not been established, he said.

Reinhold said Abdulazeez initially fired on military personnel from inside his convertible vehicle as he drove by a recruiting center at a strip mall. He then drove about 15 miles, where he exited the car and entered a second recruitment center and opened fire.

Reinhold did not release specific information about the firearms used in the killings, but said the suspect had "several weapons" and authorities were in the process of searching his residence.

No one else has been arrested in connection with the shootings. A woman who was seen being put into handcuffs outside of a residence earlier in the evening was done so as a precaution to officers, he said.

U.S. Attorney Bill Killian said there were no additional threats to the public following the shootings in Tennessee.

"As far as we know, at this juncture there are no safety concerns for the general public," Killian said.

The names of the victims were not released.

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Police in some major U.S. cities have increased their presence at military recruiting stations in the wake of the deadly shootings in Chattanooga.

The New York Police Department deployed Critical Response Vehicles at recruiting stations, CBS New York reported.

Officers in Chicago were also being deployed to similar sites.

Police Supt. Garry McCarthy has ordered CPD officers stationed at all military recruiting sites within the city, until further notice

The increased police presence, however, did not appear to be a nationwide directive.

A spokeswoman with the Los Angeles Police Department said there was no order in the city to increase patrols at recruiting locations.

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Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam told reporters at news conference on Thursday that it was "a horrible day for Chattanooga and a terrible day for all of Tennessee."

He added that "Tennessee and Chattanooga responded...with an outpouring of love and support" after a shooter killed four Marines earlier in the day.

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke also spoke, calling it "a tragic day for our city."

But, he added, "all of our officials have responded in the best way possible" and said he was "completely impressed by the heroism that was shown."

When asked, Haslam said that they had not yet spoken with the families of the victims.

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Authorities swarmed a Hixson, Tennessee, neighborhood where the suspected gunman lived, and were seen taking a woman into custody.

SWAT teams and FBI agents in military-style fatigues cordoned off a large area of the neighborhood.

The woman's identity was not immediately known.

According to public records, Abdulazeez's parents own a home in the area.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press reported that authorities kicked out a reporter as they canvassed the neighborhood.

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The Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga released a statement Thursday after the attack condemning the shooting "in the strongest possible terms."

Statement from the Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga: "We condemn this act in the strongest possible terms"

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The suspect in the Chattanooga shooting was not on the radar of federal law enforcement, according to a U.S. official.

The Associated Press reported that a U.S. official said there is no indication that the suspected shooter, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, was on the FBI's watch list at the time of the shooting. The official spoke anonymously to the AP, citing the ongoing investigation.

The official also said Abdulazeez lives in Hixson, Tennessee, which is less than 10 miles from Chattanooga. He is believed to have been born in Kuwait, the AP reported.

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Former classmates who attended Red Bank High School in Tennessee with Abdulazeez shared a photo of the suspect's senior picture and quote in the school yearbook.

Senior quote: "My name causes national security alerts. What does yours do?” http://t.co/cL3wXBf2qj

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The federally-owned Tennessee Valley Authority confirms to BuzzFeed News Chattanooga suspect was an intern there.

Travis Brickey from the Tennessee Valley Authority said Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez was student intern there approximately five years ago.

"As a member of the Chattanooga community our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the victims," Brickey added.

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New York Police Department Deputy Commissioner Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller released a statement announcing NYPD's increased surveillance at "sensitive locations" across the city in light of the shooting.

The NYPD has deployed an increased number of Critical Response Vehicles (CRV) to provide additional coverage at military recruiting stations and other sensitive locations in the City of New York. While we have no specific information about any plot against the city, until we learn more about the attack we have placed additional officers in key locations. We have been in regular contact with Tennessee authorities, the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force and the intelligence community.
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"We will, of course, be investigating whether these acts were the result of online propaganda or other extremist influence."

California Rep. Adam Schiff, a Democrat and the Ranking Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, released the following statement:

The attack today against a Navy facility and military career center that left four service members murdered and others wounded is a terrible tragedy. Our thoughts are with the victims and their families.

The intelligence community and law enforcement have worked hard to detect and prevent a great many attacks, but individual acts of violence, whether as a result of radicalization or some other nefarious motivation, continue to be among the hardest to detect and prevent. I have received a preliminary briefing on this terrible assault, and it is too early to determine whether the gunman had a connection to any foreign terrorist organization such as ISIS or Al Qaeda. We will, of course, be investigating whether these acts were the result of online propaganda or other extremist influence. As the situation develops, the Intelligence Committee will receive continual updates.
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A recent mugshot of the Chattanooga shooting suspect has been released.

Hamilton County Sheriffs Office via AP

A man identified as Mohammad Youssduf Adbulazeer is seen in this April 2015 booking photo after being detained for a driving offense.

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Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch says FBI to lead "national security" investigation.

On behalf of the Department of Justice, I offer my heartfelt condolences and deepest sympathies to the loved ones of the U.S. servicemembers who were murdered and the law enforcement officer who was wounded in this shameful and cowardly act of violence. I have directed the FBI to take the lead in the national security investigation of this heinous attack on members of our military. The U.S. Attorney's office and department prosecutors are also actively involved. In the days ahead, we intend to work with our partners in law enforcement and the intelligence community to ensure that the American people are protected and that justice is served.
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Statement by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter:

It is with a heavy heart that I learned of today's tragic events in Chattanooga. My thoughts and prayers - along with those of the men and women of the Department of Defense - are with the families of those killed in this senseless act of violence and with all those touched by this tragedy, including our Navy and Marine Corps family. I am grateful to local law enforcement for their swift response. The department will continue to work with local law enforcement as they investigate this heinous crime and will support our military families in their time of grief.
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Speaking from the Oval Office Thursday, President Obama called the attack "heartbreaking."

View this video on YouTube

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I just received a briefing from FBI Director Comey, as well as my White House team, about the tragic shooting that took place in Chattanooga today. We don't know yet all the details. We know that what appears to be a lone gunman carried out these attacks. We've identified a name. And at this point, a full investigation is taking place. The FBI will be in the lead, working closely with local law enforcement.

We've also been in contact with the Department of Defense to make sure that all our Defense facilities are properly attentive and vigilant as we sort through exactly what happened. And as details of the investigation proceed, we'll make sure that the FBI, as well as local law enforcement are providing the public with all the information that's involved.

My main message right now is, obviously, the deepest sympathies of the American people to the four Marines that have been killed. It is a heartbreaking circumstance for these individuals who have served our country with great valor to be killed in this fashion.

And although the families are still in the process of being contacted, I want them to know that I speak for the American people in expressing our deepest condolences, and knowing that they have our full support as they try to overcome the grief that's involved here.

I also want to say that there are reports of injuries to Chattanooga local law enforcement officials. Thankfully, as far as we know at this point, they have survived the assault. And we want to make sure that they know that we're thinking of them. They're in our thoughts and prayers.

We take all shootings very seriously. Obviously, when you have an attack on a U.S. military facility, then we have to make sure that we have all the information necessary to make an assessment in terms of how this attack took place, and what further precautions we can take in the future. And as we have more information, we'll let the public know.

But in the meantime, I'd ask all Americans to pray for the families who are grief-stricken at this point. And I want everybody to understand that we will be thorough and prompt in figuring out exactly what happened.
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A gunman opened fire at two military facilities in Chattanooga, Tennessee Thursday morning fatally shooting four Marines. The shooter was later killed, officials said.

"Today was a nightmare for the city of Chattanooga," Mayor Andy Berke said of the shootings that began around 10:45 a.m. "It is incomprehensible to see what happened."

In addition to the four dead Marines, Berke said that a police officer was shot in the ankle but was treated at Erlanger Medical Center.

Several others, he added, were also been treated for gunshot wounds.

U.S. Attorney Bill Killian said during a news conference that investigators were in the preliminary stages of figuring out the series of events that took place during the shooting, but officials were treating the attacks as an "act of domestic terrorism."

But when asked about a possible connection between today's shooting and any specific terrorist organizations, Killian said there is "no indication that it's tied to anything."

FBI Special Agent in Charge Ed Reinhold said authorities were still investigating a motive.

Officials did not release the name of the gunman. Killian said he believed the shooter is either "from or resided in" Chattanooga. He is not aware of the shooter's history, or if he was formerly affiliated with the military.

"Lives have been lost from some faithful people who have been serving our country, and I think I join all Tennesseans in being both sickened and saddened by this," Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said in a statement following the shootings.

After the news conference Chattanooga Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson released a statement urging citizens to remain critical of unconfirmed information.

The Department of Homeland Security is closely monitoring the tragic shooting in Chattanooga, and we are supporting the FBI-led investigation. We caution that, at this time, there are many unconfirmed and possibly false reports about events. Department officials are actively supporting the local response to this incident. The Department is also enhancing the security posture at certain federal facilities, out of an abundance of caution. We express our condolences to the families of those members of the United States Marine Corps who were killed.

The FBI also released a statement, confirming that shooter Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, 24, had been killed.

The FBI's Knoxville Field Office, along with the Chattanooga Police Department and other law enforcement partners, are working jointly to investigate today's shootings at a military recruitment center and a reserve center in Chattanooga, Tennessee in which four individuals were killed and three injured. The shooter, Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, is also deceased. While it would be premature to speculate on the motives of the shooter at this time, we will conduct a thorough investigation of this tragedy and provide updates as they are available.

At the Make Progress National Summit in Washington, D.C., Vice President Joe Biden gave some remarks on the Chattanooga shooting.

At #MakeProgress, @VP on TN: "We don't have all the details ... what we do know was that four Marines were killed and others were injured."

.@VP says his heart goes out to the family of those lost. "We will get to the bottom of it."

"These young Marines are part of a generation that is probably the most incredible generation this country has seen," Biden added.

Officials said the shootings began at the U.S. Naval Recruiting Reserve Center, located on Lee Highway, and ended at the U.S. Naval Reserve Center on Amnicola Highway, about seven miles away.

John Bazemore / AP

Police officers enter the Armed Forces Career Center through a bullet-riddled door after a gunman opened fire on the building on July 16, 2015.

Brian Lepley, a spokesman with the U.S. Army Recruiting Command in Fort Knox, Kentucky, told the Associated Press that the gunman was in a car in front of the facility, fired shots and drove away. The gunman then attacked the second facility. The four Marines were killed in that location.

In a statement from the White House, Press Secretary Eric Schultz said, "The President has been briefed by his national security staff on the Chattanooga shooting, and will continue to get updates as warranted."

Mayor Berke was in the middle of an unrelated press conference when the shooting occurred, and reportedly left immediately to attend the scene of the crime.

Our hearts are broken for the families of the four Marines killed in today's terrible act of violence. They are in our prayers.

Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker addressed the floor Thursday to express his "deep sorrow for those who've been affected" by the Chattanooga shooting, noting that "some people have been tragically injured."

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The senator later released a statement about the incident.

"I am heartbroken by the tragic shootings that have taken place today in my hometown," said Corker. "We have been in touch with federal, state and local officials and continue to monitor developments and have offered our assistance. This is a difficult day for Tennesseans and our thoughts and prayers are with all affected by this tragedy."

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is also on the scene.

BREAKING: ATF special agents responding to shooting incident in Tennessee.

Blood Assurance, a local donation organization, established an emergency blood drive and sent blood to Erlanger Medical Center to help the victims.

A number of nearby establishments initiated precautionary lockdowns in light of the incident, including Chattanooga State Community College and the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department.

The Erlanger Medical Center emergency department, where a number of police vehicles have been seen following the shooting. was reportedly on lockdown for three hours during the height of the shooting and its aftermath.

Tiger Alert !!!! Main Campus: Shooting off campus nearby. Main campus on lockdown until further notice. Stay indoors.