On Thursday, July 16, 2015, a lone shooter went on a rampage in Chattanooga, Tennessee, targeting Military Recruitment offices. When it was over half the city and state was suddenly on lockdown, and the entire world was watching.
Four Marines died that day, while a wounded Navy Reservist succumbed to his wounds a few days later. A total of six people died, including the shooter, who was killed by police on the scene.
Chattanooga is my hometown, and it is no exaggeration that this crime put all Tennesseans in a state of shock. I had just been at Erlanger hospital that morning for short procedure. After that my husband and I drove home past the Lee Highway recruitment center, just remarking on what a pretty day it was and how green the trees were, and chatting about what to have for breakfast. After a leisurely meal we went home and five minutes later discovered that the shootings had occurred, the hospital was on lockdown, and police were in a manhunt for the killer on Amnicola Highway near our son's college, Chattanooga State. And people were possibly dead.
Later I would find out that the shooter, Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez, attended my alma mater, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, just a few miles from where the four Marines were shot, and where my youngest is working towards a similar Engineering degree. He attended high school with my future son-in-law, who owns a copy of the Yearbook in which he wrote “My name causes national security alerts. What does yours do? -Hijabman.”
If this shooter had wanted just to kill citizens, he could have shot at cars on the highway, or shot at students and families on the Riverwalk, or shot through the windows of any restaurant. But he clearly targeted the military and the police. He had a plan - we could all see that. This wasn't a random crime, but an act of terrorism.
We still don't know everything about him, but we know that he lived among us as a Chattanoogan all his life and then one day, for whatever twisted reason, he woke up and decided to kill regular folks only because they wore military uniforms. For someone who didn't want to be judged by his own name, it is the ultimate act of selfish hypocrisy.
People who knew Abdulazeez were stunned to hear he was the man who sprayed a military recruiting center at a strip mall with bullets, then drove seven miles to assault Navy Operational Support Center Chattanooga. He killed a sailor and four Marines, and wounded two more people, before being killed by police.
Friends described Abdulazeez as a once-devoted, disciplined mixed-martial-arts fighter; a top student known for smarts, charm and humor; and a devout Muslim who kept in touch with his roots in the Middle East.
The FBI hasn't released much information on Abdulazeez, saying it doesn't yet know what motivated the bloodshed but it is working on an assumption. "We will treat this as a terrorism investigation until it can be determined that it is not," FBI Special Agent Edward Reinhold said.
Chatt State's campus, Erlanger Hospital, Memorial Hospital, Lee University, and Governor's Mansion all on lockdown. #ChattanoogaShooting— Carley Gordon (@WSMVCarley) July 16, 2015
Witness in Chattanooga, Tennessee, tells CNN she saw man with "a high-powered rifle" fire multiple shots at her store from a silver Mustang— Ram Ramgopal (@RamCNN) July 16, 2015
Part of road where Mohammad Abdulazeez family lived still blocked. Up the road a neighbor flies flag at half staff. pic.twitter.com/Yw073oqODK— Kim Chapman (@KimChapmanNC9) July 17, 2015