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FBI: Chattanooga shooter was a 'homegrown violent extremist'

By Amy R. Connolly
FBI: Chattanooga shooter was a 'homegrown violent extremist'
Hundreds of notes and letters have been left at a make-shift memorial at the U.S. Naval and Marine Reserve Center in Chattanooga, Tenn. The shootings at two locations left four Marines and a sailor dead. The gunman, Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, also died. File Photo by Billy Weeks/UPI | License Photo

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn., July 23 (UPI) -- In less than five minutes, Mohammad Youssef Abdul­azeez methodically moved through the Naval Reserve center, hunting down Marines and sailors to shoot and kill, officials said Wednesday.

Even as at least one service member opened fire, Abdul­azeez was able to rush the gate surrounding the U.S. Naval and Marine Reserve Center last week with his rented Ford Mustang convertible and blasted his way through a building, shooting at anyone in his path. When the 24-year-old reached the back exit, he continued his rampage, killing Marines in the motor-pool area as some scrambled to escape over a fence.

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By the end, Sgt. Carson Holmquist, 25; Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, 40; Lance Cpl. Squire "Skip" Wells, 21; and Staff Sgt. David A. Wyatt, 35, were dead, Chattanooga police officer Dennis Pedigo was wounded and Abdulazeez was killed. Navy Petty Officer Randall Smith, 26 died from his wounds early Saturday.

In the first detailed account of the July 16 shooting, FBI Special Agent Ed Reinhold, who is leading the investigation, described Abdul­azeez as a " "homegrown violent extremist."

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"We believe he acted on his own that day," Reinhold said. "We don't have any indication that anyone else was assisting him that day."

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Reinhold said Abdul­azeez began his spree 10 miles away at a military recruitment center, never leaving his car as he fired dozens of rounds, blasting through the glass-front office. No one was injured.

"The legacy that day is one of valor," said Maj. Gen. Paul Brier, commander of the 4th Marine Division. "I can tell you that our Marines reacted the way you would expect. Some willingly ran back into the fight."

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Some 1,000 investigators are working through 400 leads in the case, including reports Abdulazeez was depressed with suicidal thoughts and he studied radical information online.

Reinhold said it appeared that all five victims were killed with the same weapon.

"This is a complex, ongoing investigation and we are still in the early stages of piecing together what happened and why," he said.

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