Gunman kills 4 Marines, injures 3 in Tennessee shootings

by Kimberly Pennington, National Correspondent |
Glenna and Steve Mooneyham kneel after placing flags and flowers at a sign leading to the Naval Operational Support and Marine Corps Reserve Center as a policeman stands nearby in Chattanooga, Tennessee July 16, 2015. | REUTERS/Tami Chappell

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (Christian Examiner) -- In what is being described as an act of domestic terrorism, a lone shooter opened fire on two military facilities in east Tennessee Thursday morning killing four Marines and injuring three others, including another Marine, a military member and a local police officer.

Alleged shooter Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez, 24, a Kuwati-born naturalized American citizen from Hixson, Tennessee, also died but officials have not said whether he killed himself or died during the police shootout.

Abdulazeez, who was raised in Chattanooga and attended high school and college there, is believed to have first opened fire around 10:45 a.m. on an Army recruiting center in a Chattanooga strip mall where other businesses including a hair salon and restaurant are also located.

FBI agents work the scene at the Armed Forces Career Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee July 16, 2015. Four Marines were killed on Thursday by a gunman who opened fire at two military offices in Chattanooga, Tennessee, before being fatally shot in an attack officials called a brazen, brutal act of domestic terrorism. | REUTERS/Tami Chappell

Landscaper Keegan Greene who was working at the strip mall told Chattanooga ABC Affiliate WTVC he witnessed the shooter spray the military recruiting center with an array of bullets from inside a vehicle. The shooter then put the vehicle in reverse and riddled the recruiting center with another round of gunfire before speeding away from the location.

The New York Times reports investigators placed at least 20 bullet casing markers across the parking lot. An Army spokesperson said four employees were in the recruiting center but none were injured.

Abdulazeez is believed to have then driven to a Naval Reserve facility approximately 10 miles from the scene of the first shooting where he allegedly opened fire again and became engaged in a shootout with police.

Carolyn Taylor, an employee at a business across the street from the Naval Reserve facility, told The New York Times she estimated hearing at least 100 shots fired in the shootout.

Area businesses and schools were placed on lockdown, and other military centers in 60-mile radius closed sending employees home as a precautionary measure. Security was immediately increased at other government buildings across the nation.

"Devastating and senseless," is how Navy secretary, Ray Mabus, described the shootings. "While we expect our sailors and Marines to go into harm's way, and they do so without hesitation, an attack at home, in our community, is insidious and unfathomable."

Government officials ranging from President Barack Obama to Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and members of Congress from Tennessee expressed condolences to family members of the deceased.

Federal authorities are looking into possible terrorist links. Although Abdulazeez was not on any terrorist watch list and friends from high school expressed shock at the shootings describing him as quiet, friendly, and nice, SITE Intelligence discovered a July 13 blog post in which Abdulazeez described life as "short and bitter" and said Muslims should not miss an opportunity to "submit to Allah."

Abdulazeez's senior picture in Red Bank High School yearbook is accompanied by a quote from him which said, "My name causes national security alerts. What does yours do?"

No direct link between the Chattanooga shootings and a specific terrorist group has been discovered although the shooting occurred on the final day of Ramadan.

Security experts expressed concern before July 4 about an ISIS call to arms against American military and law enforcement officials during the Muslim holy month. FBI officials recently reported several arrests made in the days prior to July 4 likely interrupted terrorist activities which could have claimed the lives of several Americans during the holiday weekend.

The Case is receiving full resources of the FBI - 24-hours-a-day. They are trying to determine if there are other imminent risks to Americans.

Evangelist Franklin Graham commented about the shootings on Facebook.

"Once again our country has come under attack. Pray for the family members of those killed and for those injured in the vicious shootings in #Chattanooga today. What a tragedy. May the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort care for each one of them as only He can," the founder and CEO of Samaritan's Purse wrote.

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