From typical suburban life to vicious attack
Investigators work to uncover Chattanooga gunman’s motive
Counterterrorism investigators are trying to figure out why a 24-year-old Kuwait-born man who by many accounts lived a typical life in suburban America attacked two military facilities in a shooting rampage that killed four Marines.
Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez of Hixson, Tennessee, had not been on the radar of federal authorities before the bloodshed and authorities said they were still searching for a motive. Abdulazeez was killed by police.
Federal authorities were looking into the possibility it was an act of terrorism, but say there is no evidence yet that anyone else was involved — or that the public is in any danger.
A relative said Abdulazeez has family in the West Bank and that he visited Jordan last year.
The relative, who spoke on condition of anonymity be- cause the person feared repercussions, said Abdulazeez was a “nice, educated guy.” Abdulazeez met the relative for the first time during his visit to Jordan last year, and the two spoke for about an hour. During that time, the relative saw no hints of violence.
The relative said his parents are both from the West Bank.
The relative said the family are mainstream Muslims, not fundamentalists. The person says “they fast, they pray and that is it.”
A federal law enforcement official said Friday that authorities were continuing a search of his computer, but had not found an extensive online presence and had not uncovered evidence suggesting he was directly inspired by the Islamic State. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak publicly since the investigation was still ongoing.
Officials have not said what weapons he used, and even the exact spelling of his first name was not clear: Federal authorities and records gave at least four variations. Residents in the quiet neighbourhood where he is believed to have lived in a two-story home said they didn’t know him or his family well.
Abdulazeez got his engineering degree from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in 2012. One of his classmates, Hussnain Javid, said they both graduated to Red Bank High School in Chattanooga several years apart. Javid said Abdulazeez was on the high school’s wrestling team and was a popular student.
“He was very outgoing,” said Javid, a 21-year-old senior at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. “Everyone knew of him.”
The Tennessee Valley Authority confirmed Abdulazeez had been an intern at the public utility a few years ago.
Javid said he occasionally saw Abdulazeez at the Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga, but the last time was roughly a year ago. In April, he was arrested on a first offence drunken driving charge. The status of that case wasn’t immediately clear.
The shootings took place minutes apart, with the gunman stopping his car and spraying dozens of bullets first at a recruiting centre for all branches of the military, then driving to a Navy-Marine training centre 7 miles away, authorities and witnesses said. The attacks were over within a half-hour.
In addition to the Marines killed, three people were reported wounded, including a sailor who was seriously hurt.
The men killed were identified Friday by the Marines as Gunnery Sgt. Thomas J. Sullivan of Hampden, Massachusetts; Staff Sgt. David A. Wyatt of Burke, North Carolina; Sgt. Carson A. Holmquist of Polk, Wisconsin; and Lance Cpl. Squire K. Wells of Cobb County, Georgia, who a family spokesman says went by “Skip.”
Sullivan was deployed twice during the Iraq war and received two Purple Hearts.
Dr. Steven Angle, chancellor of the University of Tennessee, speaks at a gathering at the Chattanooga campus Friday to honor four Marines who were killed Thursday in attacks on two military facilities.