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.

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