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Family says Chattanooga shooter suffered from depression, drug abuse

The gunman reportedly had suicidal thoughts.

By
Andrew V. Pestano
Marcus Varnell prays at a makeshift memorial at the U.S. Navy Operational Support Center & Marine Corps Reserve Center in Chattanooga, Tenn., on Saturday. Photo by Billy Weeks/UPI
Marcus Varnell prays at a makeshift memorial at the U.S. Navy Operational Support Center & Marine Corps Reserve Center in Chattanooga, Tenn., on Saturday. Photo by Billy Weeks/UPI | License Photo

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn., July 20 (UPI) -- Mohammad Abdulazeez, the gunman who killed five military servicemen in Chattanooga, Tenn., reportedly suffered from depression and drug abuse.

Abdulazeez was manic depressive and "not the son we knew and loved," his family said in a statement released Sunday. "We extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to the families of the honorable servicemembers and police officers who were victims of the shooting our son committed on Thursday."

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Abdulazeez, 24, abused prescription drugs, marijuana and "party drugs," according to his family. He also suffered from bipolar disorder and sought treatment with a psychiatrist, according to CNN.

Abdulazeez reportedly had suicidal thoughts and wrote in his diary about "becoming a martyr" after losing his job due to his drug abuse. He was also preparing for bankruptcy and faced an appearance in a criminal court.

Marines Thomas Sullivan, Squire "Skip" Wells, David Wyatt, Carson Holmquist and Navy Petty Officer Randall Smith were killed in the attack.

Abdulazeez traveled to Jordan last year because his family said his friends in Chattanooga were a bad influence on him. Some of his family and friends told investigators his behavior changed after his return.

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There is no evidence connecting Abdulazeez's actions to international militant organizations.

Investigators seized four guns connected to Abdulazeez. Police said he had a handgun and two long guns in his possession and wore a vest that allowed him to carry extra ammunition during the shooting.

Authorities said the gunman was killed by police and did not take his own life.

The shooting spree began at a recruiting center at a strip mall, where no one was injured. Those inside hit the floor in the spray of gunfire and made their way out the back door.

In a 30-minute time span, Abdulazeez, a University of Tennesee graduate, drove his rented Mustang convertible from the recruiting center to the Navy operations support center, some seven miles away, and opened fire again.

The U.S. Attorney's Office said the shootings are being investigated as "domestic terrorism," but have not yet been officially classified as terrorism.

Amy R. Connolly contributed to this report.

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