US Attorney labels fatal attacks on military sites in Chattanooga 'domestic terrorism'
Updated: The shootings at two military facilities in Tennessee that led to the deaths of four Marines are an “act of domestic terrorism,” says U.S. Attorney Bill Killian. He pledged FBI and Department of Homeland Security resources for an investigation into the attacks.
The first attack began at the Armed Forces Career Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where more than a dozen bullet holes are visible in the building’s door, the Associated Press reports.
“We heard one single shot, which kind of sparked our attention,” Sgt. 1st Class Robert Dodge told the AP. “Shortly after that, just a few seconds, the shooter began shooting more rounds. We realized it was an actual shooting, so we then initiated our active shooter drill: getting down low to the ground, moving to a safe location. And we waited until everything seemed to be clear.”
Seven miles away and minutes later, another shooting took place at a Navy and Marine reserve center. It was on that site that the four Marines were killed, along with the sole gunman responsible, U.S. officials told the AP. The two attacks happened in the span of a half-hour.
In addition to the fatalities, the Marine Corps has announced that a fifth Marine was wounded in the leg and released from the hospital. Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke said a police officer was also wounded and is in stable condition. WBIR-Chattanooga reported that three were injured in all. The names of the four slain Marines have not yet been released.
Although the officials are treating this as a potential act of domestic terrorism, FBI Agent Ed Reinhold seemed to later walk back Killian’s labeling of the situation, saying that a motive is still being investigated. Reinhold told CNN late Thursday night that the FBI “have not determined whether it was an act of terrorism or whether … it was a simple, criminal act.” He said that as of that time, “we don’t have anything that directly ties him to an international terrorist organization.”
President Barack Obama spoke to reporters after the shooting, saying, “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.” NBC News has more.
The shooter has been identified as Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez, 24, although the spelling of his first name is unclear. Abdulazeez was born in Kuwait; family members have reportedly told media sources that he was a naturalized U.S. citizen. He is reported to have graduated from the University of Tennessee with an engineering degree. The Washington Post and Chattanooga Times Free Press have more on what is known about his childhood and background.
Updated on July 17 at 9:18 a.m. with further quotes and details.