U.S. sailor shot in Tennessee shooting dies, raises toll to 5

WATCH ABOVE: Intelligence officials say they are looking for any details about who Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez visited, stayed with and communicated with, while he was overseas in 2014.

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez pulled up to his military targets in a rented, silver Mustang convertible, wearing a vest with extra ammunition, wielding at least two long guns and a handgun. His once clean-shaven face was covered with a bushy beard. A short time later, four Marines he had shot lay dead. A sailor wounded by him died Saturday.

The Navy statement did not give the sailor’s name. But he was earlier identified as Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith, a reservist serving on active duty in Chattanooga.

The image of Abdulazeez described by investigators doesn’t square with the seemingly ordinary man described by neighbours and classmates: A clean-cut wrestler, the brother of a tennis player, the son of parents who drove no-frills cars. A man who played with the neighbourhood kids growing up, gave a lift to a neighbour in a snowstorm.

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READ MORE: These are the 4 Marines who were killed in the Chattanooga shooting

Just days before the shootings, Abdulazeez was seen dribbling a soccer ball in his yard. He told two longtime friends he was excited about his new job at a company that makes wire and cable products.

“Everything seemed fine. He was normal. He was telling me work was going great,” said Ahmed Saleen Islam, 26, who knew Abdulazeez through the Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga and saw him at the mosque two or three nights before the attacks. “We are so shocked and angry … we wish he would have come to us.”

Hailey Bureau, 25, recalled sitting next to Abdulazeez in high school because their last names were close alphabetically. She said she broke down when she learned he was the gunman, saying, “It’s so shocking. I imagine him the way I knew him then, laughing and smiling.”

Bureau recalled Abdulazeez’s wry sense of humour in a quote next to his yearbook photo: “My name causes national security alerts. What does yours do?”

READ MORE: Who is Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez?

The 24-year-old Kuwait-born man opened fire on two U.S. military sites in Chattanooga in an attack that left four Marines dead at the scene and a sailor who succumbed to his injuries later. The death of Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith, a reservist serving on active duty at the Chattanooga centre, was announced Saturday by the Navy.

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It’s not clear what set Abdulazeez on the path to violence that ended with him being gunned down by police.

Abdulazeez did not appear to have been on federal authorities’ radar before the bloodshed Thursday, officials said. But now counterterrorism investigators are taking a deep look at his online activities and foreign travel.

“It would be premature to speculate on exactly why the shooter did what he did,” FBI agent Ed Reinhold said. “However, we are conducting a thorough investigation to determine whether this person acted alone or was inspired or directed.”

READ MORE: 4 Marines and suspected gunman killed in Tennessee shootings at 2 military sites

In the quiet neighbourhood in Hixson, Tennessee, where Abdulazeez lived with his parents in a two-story home, residents and former classmates described an ordinary suburban life. However, court documents allege it was an abusive and turbulent household.

Abdulazeez’s mother, Rasmia Ibrahim Abdulazeez, filed a divorce complaint in 2009 accusing her husband, Youssuf Saed Abdulazeez, of beating her repeatedly in front of their children and sexually assaulting her. She also accused him of “striking and berating” the children without provocation. Weeks later, the couple agreed to reconcile, with the father consenting to go to counselling.

Abdulazeez graduated from Red Bank High School in Chattanooga, where he was on the wrestling team. A fellow Red Bank High graduate, Hussnain Javid, said Abdulazeez was “very outgoing.”

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“Obviously something has happened since then,” said Sam Plank, who graduated two years ahead of Abdulazeez but hadn’t crossed paths with him since 2006. “He was as Americanized as anyone else.”

Bilal Sheikh, 25, said he had known Abdulazeez since they were teenagers and he never expressed any negative feelings about the United States or members of the military.

“He never said anything that would have been a red flag,” Sheikh said. “I have so many questions in my head. I want to know why? What made him crack all of a sudden? It’s mind-boggling.”

Abdulazeez got an engineering degree from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in 2012 and worked as an intern a few years ago at the Tennessee Valley Authority, the federally owned utility that operates power plants and dams.

He was conditionally hired as an engineer at the Perry nuclear power plant near Cleveland and spent 10 days there before he was let go in May 2013 because he failed a background check, said Todd Schneider, a FirstEnergy Corp. spokesman. A federal official briefed on the matter told The Associated Press that Abdulazeez was dismissed because he failed a drug test. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing law enforcement investigation.

For the past three months, Abdulazeez had been working at Superior Essex Inc. In April, he was arrested on a drunken driving charge.

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Karen Jones, who lived next to the family for 14 years, said she was surprised last weekend by his appearance when she saw him walking with another man in woods behind the house, where he liked to shoot pellet guns at a red target in a tree.

“He had this big beard, which was not how he used to be,” Jones said.

The official Kuwait News Agency on Friday quoted the Interior Ministry as saying while Abdulazeez was born in Kuwait, he was of Jordanian origin.

A U.S. official who was not authorized to discuss the case and spoke on condition of anonymity said Abdulazeez was in Jordan last year for months, and those travels and anyone he met with are being looked at.


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