Gunman Opens Fire at US Military Center; 4 Marines Killed
CHATTANOOGA: A gunman unleashed a barrage of gunfire at two military facilities Thursday in Tennessee, killing at least four Marines and wounding a soldier and a police officer, officials said. The shooter also was killed.
“Today was a nightmare for the city of Chattanooga,” Mayor Andy Berke said.
U.S. Attorney Bill Killian said officials were treating the attacks as an “act of domestic terrorism,” though FBI Special Agent in Charge Ed Reinhold said authorities were still investigating a motive.
A U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity identified the gunman as 24-year-old Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, and said he was believed to have been born in Kuwait, though it was unclear whether he was a U.S. or Kuwaiti citizen.
Within hours of the shootings, law enforcement officers with guns drawn swarmed what was believed to be Abdulazeez’s house, and two females were led away in handcuffs.
The attacks took places minutes apart, with the gunman stopping his car and opening fire first at a military recruiting center, then apparently driving to a nearby Navy-Marine training center.
The Marine Corps said four Marines were killed, and a fifth Marine was wounded in the leg. A police officer was shot in the ankle, Berke said.
Authorities gave no details on how the gunman was killed. The FBI’s Reinhold said he had “numerous weapons” but would not give details.
“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,” Gov. Bill Haslam said.
Sgt. 1st Class Robert Dodge, who leads U.S. Army recruiting at the recruiting center, estimated there were 30 to 50 shots fired. He and his comrades got on the ground and barricaded themselves in a safe place.
Law enforcement officials told recruiters that the shooter was in a car, stopped in front of the facility, shot at the building and drove off, said Brian Lepley, a spokesman with the U.S. Army Recruiting Command.
Within minutes, the shooter then opened fire at the Navy Operational Support Center and Marine Corps Reserve Center Chattanooga.
Marilyn Hutcheson, who works across the street, said she heard a barrage of gunfire.
“I couldn’t even begin to tell you how many,” she said. “It was rapid fire, like pow pow pow pow pow, so quickly. The next thing I knew, there were police cars coming from every direction.”
She ran inside, where she remained locked down with other employees and a customer. The gunfire continued with occasional bursts she estimated for 20 minutes.
“If it was a grievance or terroristic related, we just don’t know,” she said.