Four Marines were slain in an attack on a Navy recruiting facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the United States (U.S.) on Thursday.
Another recruiting facility was also attacked, and two others, a soldier and a police officer, were wounded. The gunman, identified as Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, was shot dead by policemen.
That centre of the shooting sits between the highway and a pathway that runs through Tennessee River Park, a popular park at a bend in the Tennessee River northeast of downtown Chattanooga.
It’s in a light industrial area that includes a Coca-Cola bottling plant and Binswanger Glass.
The two entrances to the fenced facility have unmanned gates and concrete barriers that require approaching cars to slow down to drive around them.
An official of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) says investigators have no evidence at this point that anyone but a lone gunman was involved in the fatal shooting of the four marines.
FBI agent Ed Reinhold also told a news conference Thursday night that the shooter initially fired from inside his car when he drove by a military recruiting centre at a strip mall. Reinhold said the shooter then drove to another U.S. military site, where he got out of his car before fatally shooting the marines.
Asked about potential accomplices, Reinhold responded, “There is no indication at this point that anybody else was involved. Obviously, we’re still at the beginning of this investigation,” he said. “We will explore any possibility and that includes whether or not anyone else was involved.”
U.S. Attorney Bill Killian says investigators do not believe that there are any threats to the general public following the fatal shooting.
Killian told a news conference on Thursday night that the investigation into the shooting is “an ongoing extensive and expansive investigation with federal, state and local agencies, headed by the FBI.”
“As far as we know, at this juncture, there are no safety concerns for the general public,” Killian said.
Authorities also told the news conference that they still have not uncovered a motive for the shootings
The suspect in the fatal shooting is a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
University spokesman, Mike Andrews, said 24-year-old Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez graduated in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering.
The Tennessee Valley Authority confirmed that he also was a student intern a few years ago at the authority, a federally-owned utility that operates power plants and dams across the South.
Hussnain Javid is a 21-year-old senior at the university. Javid said Abdulazeez studied electrical engineering at the same college and that they both graduated from Red Bank High School in Chattanooga several years apart. Javid said Abdulazeez was on the high school’s wrestling team and was a popular student.
Javid said Abdulazeez was “very outgoing” and that he was well known.
The U.S. National Counterterrorism Center said it has seen nothing so far to connect Abdulazeez to any terrorist organization.
A U.S. official says Abdulazeez is believed to have been born in Kuwait, but it was unclear whether he was a U.S. or Kuwaiti citizen. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing, sensitive investigation.
A United States official says there’s no indication that the suspected Chattanooga gunman was under investigation by the FBI or on the radar of federal law enforcement at the time of the shooting.
The official was briefed on the investigation but was not authorised to discuss an ongoing investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch says she’s directing the FBI to take the lead on a “national security” investigation into the Chattanooga attacks.
In a statement on Thursday, she said the two shootings at military sites in Chattanooga represented a “heinous attack.”
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus is expressing condolences for the four Marines killed. He called them “four heroes.”
Maybus says “the tragedy in Chattanooga is both devastating and senseless.”
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton described the shootings as an episode of “senseless violence” that she linked to other recent mass shootings.
“It’s terrible when we lose Marines anywhere in the world. But to lose four in Chattanooga, Tennessee is just heartbreaking,” she told reporters after holding her first town hall event in New Hampshire.
“I hope that we can find a way to stop this kind of violence that is stalking our children and people in study and people who wear the uniform of our country,” Clinton said.
President Barack Obama is promising a thorough and prompt investigation into the attack.
Obama says it appears the attack was committed by a lone gunman, but that a full investigation is ongoing.
The president is calling the shooting a “heartbreaking circumstance.” He says he’s been briefed about the incident and has been in touch with the Defence Department to make sure military facilities are vigilant.
Obama spoke in the Oval Office just minutes after returning to Washington from a trip to Oklahoma. He was joined his counterterrorism and homeland security adviser and the FBI director.
Vice President Joe Biden says the United States will get to the bottom of the shootings.
Biden says the young Marines killed were part of what he’s calling “probably the most incredible generation that this country has seen.” He’s pointing out that more than four million Americans have signed up for military service since 9/11, even though they knew they’d almost certainly be put in harm’s way.
Biden says the families of those troops have already given a lot to the country.
Biden is asking Americans to keep the families of the victims in their prayers.
The vice president was speaking at a summit of liberal activists in Washington.
Later, law enforcement officers swarmed the house believed to belong to the killer.
An Associated Press (AP) reporter saw officers with weapons drawn at the house and two females were led away in handcuffs. It’s not clear who these females are.
The law enforcement presence came shortly after a news conference in which officials described the attacks.
To Chattanooga Mayor, Andy Berke, the killings are “incomprehensible.”
Berke said at a news conference on Thursday that the shooter had also been slain.
“I want to say again, it is incomprehensible to see what happened and the way those individuals who proudly serve our country were treated,” he said. “As a city, we will respond to this with every available resource we have.”
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam says “people serving their country have lost their lives in the attacks”.
An active duty Army recruiter in Chattanooga says he was at his office when someone opened fire and he heard 30 to 50 shots.
Sergeant 1st Class Robert Dodge, 36, was working at the Armed Forces Career Center off Lee Highway. There are also offices for Air Force, Navy and Marine Corp there.
“We heard one single shot, which kind of sparked our attention. Shortly after that, just a few seconds, the shooter began shooting more rounds. We realized it was an actual shooting, so we then initiated our active shooter drill: getting down low to the ground, moving to a safe location. And we waited until everything seemed to be clear.”
He said he did not see the shooter or a vehicle.
Obama was later briefed by his national security team on the shootings.
White House spokesman Eric Schultz says that the president will continue getting updates from his staff as needed.
A woman who says she witnessed the shooting in Chattanooga says she heard a barrage of gunfire near one of the shooting sites.
“It was rapid fire, like pow pow pow pow, so quickly. The next thing I knew, there were police cars coming from every direction,” said Marilyn Hutcheson, who works at a Binswanger Glass.
Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke said at a brief news conference that police were pursuing an active shooter and there was an officer down.
Hutcheson says she ran inside, where she remains with other employees and a customer. The gunfire continued with occasional bursts she estimated for 20 minutes.
“We’re apprehensive,” Hutcheson said. “Not knowing what transpired, if it was a grievance or terroristic related, we just don’t know.”
*Culled from AP