Injured Chattanooga police officer active church member, respected community member

by Kimberly Pennington, National Correspondent |
Chattanooga Police Officer Dennis Pedigo | Chattanooga Police Department

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (Christian Examiner) -- Dennis Pedigo, the Chattanooga police officer injured in a July 16 shootout with Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez, is a well-respected member of Bayside Baptist Church according to Senior Pastor Eric Stitts.

Stitts described Pedigo as a "man of integrity" who is respected in the community as well as in his church according to The Tennessee Baptist and Reflector. "[He] is very faithful. He loves his family and he takes his responsibility as a police officer very seriously," Stitts said.

The Tennessee Baptist and Reflector report did not mention Pedigo by name as it was written prior to the officer's name being released to the public.

Pedigo was injured after Abdulazeez, a 24-year-old naturalized citizen originally from Kuwait, opened fire on two separate military facilities in Chattanooga killing four U.S. Marines, one Navy petty officer, and injuring another member of the military in addition to Pedigo.

Abdulazeez was killed in the shootout. The FBI and Department of Homeland Security have not determined a motive although the The Washington Post reports investigators have encountered online blogs in which Abdulazeez allegedly revered early jidhadists who fought for the sake of Allah as "the best human beings that ever lived" and bemoaned his own life as a prison of monotony and routine.

Family and friends described Abdulazeez as friendly and actively involved in his community. He was remembered for attending neighborhood July 4th festivities with his mother and sisters among other things. The AP has also reported the a family spokesperson said the gunman suffered from mental health problems since his early teens.

Stitts said prayer would be the focus of Bayside Baptist Church's Sunday services with an emphasis on praying for the injured shooting victims and their families as well as the families of those fatally wounded in Thursday's incidents. The church remained opened Friday, the day after the shootings, for people to come and pray.

"We also are going to enter into a time of seeking the Lord and praying as a church family that the community will come together and seek the face of God," Stitts said.

Reflecting on the recent Obergefell v. Hodges U.S. Supreme Court ruling which legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states as well as the deadly July 16 shootings in his community, Stitts told The Tennessee Baptist and Reflector, "We must walk in our faith more than ever before. We must trust in God who can raise the dead. We need spiritual renewal in our nation and . . . it must start within our churches."

In the same article, Tennessee Baptist Convention Executive Director Randy C. Davis said Baptists across Tennessee were praying for the people of Chattanooga as they "deal with the enormous grief caused by evil personified." He went on to say, "We know all things work for God's glory and the good of those who follow Christ, even in great tragedy."