Jul 17, 2015 10:57 PM

The Latest: Chattanooga's Muslim community mourns Marines

The Associated Press

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) The latest on the Chattanooga shootings at two military facilities (all times local):


10:15 p.m.

A Muslim psychiatrist says he and others in Chattanooga's Muslim community are mourning the deaths of four Marines fatally shot by a man who attended the local mosque.

Pakastani-born Dr. Mohsin Ali told more than 1,000 mourners gathered at a Friday evening memorial service that the Muslim community is appalled by the actions of Muhammad Abdulazeez.

Referring to Abdulazeez as "the murderer," Ali called the shooting "cowardly and cruel."

He also asked all Muslims in attendance who "pledge your allegiance to this city and this country, to this community" to "stand up and be recognized."

Dozens of Muslims then stood, many wiping tears from their eyes as the hometown crowd cheered and applauded them.


9:20 p.m.

Two friends of the man who fatally shot four Marines before he was killed by police in Tennessee say they spoke to him within days of the attack, and that he appeared upbeat and excited about his future at a new job.

One of the friends, 26-year-old Ahmed Saleen Islam, said Friday that he knew Muhammad Abdulazeez through the Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga. He remembers seeing his friend at the mosque two or three nights before Thursday's shootings.

Islam told The Associated Press that "everything seemed fine" and that Abdulazeez "was normal."

"He was telling me work was going great," Islam said. "We are so shocked and angry. We wish he would have come to us."

Bilal Sheikh, 25, had known Abdulazeez since they were teenagers, and they often played basketball together. He saw his friend at the mosque last weekend, as they came to pray and as part of the services to celebrate Ramadan.

Sheikh described Abdulazeez as "always the most cheerful guy" who "would brighten your day."

Both men also stressed that in the years they had known Abdulazeez, he never expressed any negative feelings about the United States or members of the military.

For the past three months, Abdulazeez had been working at Superior Essex Inc., which designs and makes wire and cable products.


9 p.m.

The Chattanooga Police Department says the officer who was wounded in the shooting that killed four Marines in Tennessee is recovering.

On its Twitter account Friday evening, the department tweeted a statement from the officer's family saying that Dennis Pedigo "is doing well, he is in good spirits."

The family also offered its prayers for the families of the Marines who were killed.

The department's tweet said Pedigo is a 17-year veteran.


8:15 p.m.

A federal official says the man who gunned down four Marines at military installations in Tennessee was not hired for a job at an Ohio nuclear power plant two years ago because he failed a drug test.

The official had the information after being briefed on the matter, but couldn't speak publicly because of the ongoing law enforcement investigation of Muhammad Abdulazeez.

Earlier Friday, a spokesman for the plant said Abdulazeez had failed a "background check," but would not elaborate on why he hadn't passed the screening process.

FirstEnergy Corp. spokesman Todd Schneider said Abdulazeez was conditionally hired as an engineer at a nuclear plant about 35 miles northeast of Cleveland. He spent 10 days there before he was let go. Schneider said Abdulazeez underwent general training on company procedures, but his access was limited.


Associated Press Writer Ray Henry in Atlanta contributed to this report.


6:30 p.m.

More than 1,000 people are attending an interfaith memorial service for victims of the Tennessee shootings.

Held at Olivet Baptist Church on Friday evening, the program began with the crowd giving a standing ovation as a speaker repeatedly said, "We are Chattanooga strong!"

Members of the city's Islamic community sat in pews among the crowd as Christian pastors prayed for healing and peace and a rabbi read scripture. Gov. Bill Haslam quoted the Old Testament and said he prays that Chattanooga "would be a city that answers hate with love."


5 p.m.

An Ohio company says the man who gunned down four Marines in Tennessee failed a background check for a job at a nuclear power plant in May 2013.

Todd Schneider, a spokesman for FirstEnergy Corp., says Muhammad Abdulazeez was conditionally hired as an engineer at a nuclear plant about 35 miles northeast of Cleveland. He spent 10 days there before he was let go because he failed a background check.

He would not say why Abdulazeez didn't pass the screening process. Abdulazeez underwent general training on company procedures, but his access was limited during his brief employment.

Schneider says he worked in an administrative building and was never allowed in the protected area of the plant near the reactor.

He says employees recognized a photo of Abdulazeez after the shooting and alerted company officials.


3:30 p.m.

The FBI says the gunman who opened fire on two military facilities in Chattanooga had at least two long guns and one handgun, and some of the purchases were legal and some were not.

FBI agent Ed Reinhold did not go into specifics about the weapons at a news conference Friday. He said investigators were also looking at all of his overseas travel.

The gunman opened fire Thursday at a Marine-Navy reserve facility, killing four Marines. The FBI says he was wearing a load-bearing vest that allowed him to move about while carrying additional ammunition while he moved about.


3:20 p.m.

The police chief in Chattanooga says officers in the city dragged a wounded colleague to safety during a gunfight with the man who killed four Marines in an attack on two military sites.

Chief Fred Fletcher called the officers heroes for their actions and said Thursday during a news conference that their actions prevented an additional loss of life.

The gunman, who also died in the attack, has been identified by authorities as 24-year-old Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez.


3:15 p.m.

The U.S. Attorney in eastern Tennessee says the attacks on two military facilities in Tennessee is being treated as a terrorism investigation.

Bill Killian, the U.S. Attorney for the eastern district of Tennessee, said Thursday that the probe is being led by the FBI. Killian says investigators will "let the facts and the evidence lead us where it may."

Four Marines were killed in the attacks. The gunman has been identified by authorities as 24-year-old Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez.


2:15 p.m.

A relative says the man accused of killing four Marines in Tennessee has family in the West Bank and that he visited Jordan last year.

The relative, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the person feared repercussions, says Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez was a "nice, educated guy." Abdulazeez met the relative for the first time during his visit to Jordan last year, and the two spoke for about an hour. During that time, the relative saw no hints of violence.

The relative says his parents are both from the West Bank.

The relative says the family are mainstream Muslims, not fundamentalists. The person says "they fast, they pray and that is it."


Areej Hazboun in Jerusalem contributed to this report.


2 p.m.

The Marine Corps has identified the four men killed in an attack on military facilities in Tennessee.

They were identified Friday by the Marines as Gunnery Sgt. Thomas J. Sullivan of Hampden, Massachusetts; Staff Sgt. David A. Wyatt of Burke, North Carolina; Sgt. Carson A. Holmquist of Polk County, Wisconsin; and Lance Cpl. Squire K. Wells of Cobb County, Georgia, who a family spokesman says went by "Skip."

Sullivan was deployed twice during the Iraq war and received two Purple Hearts. Wyatt was deployed during both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, while Holmquist was deployed to Afghanistan.


1:15 p.m.

Longtime neighbors of the man who shot and killed four Marines in Tennessee say they saw him and a friend occasionally shoot pellet guns off the back deck of his home into the woods.

Karen Jones says Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez would shoot at a red target hanging from a tree. She says the family was friendly, and they often had dinner at each other's houses. She says Abdulazeez was dribbling a soccer ball in his front yard just a few days before the attacks at two military facilities on Thursday.

Jones says Abdulazeez often played with other neighborhood children when he was younger and was well-liked. She says he was typically clean shaven until recently, when he grew a thick beard that surprised her somewhat.


1:08 p.m.

Authorities in Kuwait are denying that the gunman who killed four Marines in Chattanooga was a native of the Gulf nation.

The official Kuwait News Agency on Friday quoted the Interior Ministry as saying 24-year-old Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez was not "of Kuwaiti origin."

Calling him a "terrorist," the report described him as being "of Jordanian origin, born in Kuwait" during the 1990 Iraqi invasion. It did not elaborate.

The report added that Abdulazeez visited Kuwait on May 31, 2010 and left for Jordan less than three weeks later, on June 18.

Kuwaiti officials could not be reached for further comment.


11:45 a.m.

The second Marine killed in the attacks in Chattanooga has been identified as Skip Wells, who was from metro Atlanta and in his early 20s.

Family friend Andy Kingery, who is acting as a family spokesman, said a Marine Corps notification team delivered the news to the family Thursday.

The mother was watching news coverage when the team arrived.

He had recently left Atlanta for what was supposed to be a three-week commitment. Kingery was unsure of his rank or the specifics of his job.

He attended Georgia Southern University for about a year but decided to enter the Marine Corps. Kingery says he believes Wells "died doing what he wanted to do and had chosen to do."


11 a.m.

The mayor's office in Springfield, Massachusetts, says one of the Marines killed in Tennessee grew up in the city.

Mayor Dominic Sarno identified the Marine as Sgt. Thomas Sullivan.

Sarno says in a statement that Sullivan's death is "is a tragic loss not just for the Springfield community but for our entire nation."

Masslive.com reports that the 40-year-old Sullivan's family now lives in the nearby community of Hampden.

Gov. Charlie Baker has ordered U.S. and state flags on public buildings in Massachusetts to be lowered to half-staff in honor of the four Marines killed Thursday in Tennessee.

Baker said on Facebook: "God Bless Tom Sullivan and his family and friends."

Authorities say a 24-year-old, Kuwait-born engineer killed the Marines at two military facilities in Chattanooga. He was shot and killed by police.


10:40 a.m.

The Army's top officer says security at military recruiting and reserve centers will be reviewed, but it's too early to say whether the facilities should have security guards or other increased protection.

Gen. Ray Odierno, chief of staff of the Army, told reporters Friday that arming troops in those offices could cause more problems than it might solve.

Odierno said there are legal issues involved in allowing troops at the centers to carry guns. He says those forces will always be a bit vulnerable because the centers need to be open and accessible to the public.

A notice went out Thursday to Army locations reminding them of protection measures.

A gunman shot and killed four Marines at a Chattanooga reserve center Thursday.


10:30 a.m.

A property manager who worked across the street from one of the shooting sites in Chattanooga says the full realization of what happened has hit him the day after the attacks.

Keith Wheatley, who works near the recruiting center that was hit by a barrage of shots, said the parking lot is full of flowers and flags and mementos. Cars are driving slowly to gawk at the devastated storefront. It's somber, he said.

"They call this domestic terrorism," said Wheatley, who was also a Marine and served in Hawaii in the 1970s. "But terrorism is terrorism, no matter where it is. This has come to our shores and our hometowns and our cities. And I'm pretty sure it's here to stay."

An Air Force recruiter told him he was standing in his office when a TV just to his right exploded and the wall just to his left ripped open. He wasn't injured, Wheatley said, "by the grace of God."


8:50 a.m.

A federal law enforcement official says authorities are continuing to search the computer belonging to the gunman who killed four Marines in Chattanooga, but as of Friday morning, haven't found an extensive online presence.

The official says they also haven't uncovered evidence suggesting Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez was directly inspired by the Islamic State militant group. But the official says the review is continuing.

The official, who asked not to be identified, did not mention any other terrorist-related groups. The official insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly since the investigation is still in progress.

Authorities say Abdulazeez opened fire Thursday at a military recruiting center and another military site before his own death.


8:10 a.m.

The 24-year-old man who authorities say attacked two military facilities Thursday in Chattanooga and killed four Marines is believed to have been arrested for drunken driving in April.

A booking report and mug shot from Hamilton County shows a Mohammad Youssduf Adulazeer was charged with first offense drunken driving on April 20 and arrested by the Chattanooga Housing Authority. His age and address match the suspect of the man authorities say attacked the military facilities, though the spelling of his name is slightly different from Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez. Federal authorities and public records have given several spellings of the name.

The online booking report doesn't give the status of the case, saying only that he was charged.


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