FBI: Gunman was "homegrown violent extremist" - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

FBI: Gunman was "homegrown violent extremist"

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

UPDATE: At the news conference Major General Paul Brier spoke about the bravery of the five servicemen killed on Amnicola Highway. He did not shy away from sharing how much these men mean to our country. 

"As Marines it's our sacred duty to always remember Gunnery Sgt Thomas Sullivan, Staff Sgt David Wyatt, Sgt Carson Holmquist, Lance Corporal Squire Wells and our Navy Shipmate Petty Officer Second Class Randall Smith.," said Major General Paul Brier, US Marine Corps.

Wednesday was the first presser since Friday and Channel 3 learned a lot more about the time line, the actions  of the shooter and locations. 

Channel 3 learned 20 Marines and 2 Navy Sailors were working at the reserve center on Amnicola Highway last Thursday.

They had just returned from a field training exercise in California and were on site inspecting equipment.

When the shooter entered the reserve center around 11 a.m., the FBI says he crashed through the front gate and got out of his rental car armed with an assault rifle, a handgun and several magazines of ammunition.

"A service member from inside the facility observed him, and opened fire at him, firing several rounds at him," said said FBI Special Agent In Charge Ed Reinhold.

Two service members were armed with a personal weapon at the reserve center and one of those members was the first person to fire their weapon.

The shooter returned fire and entered the building. Inside, Navy Sailor Randall Smith was the first person shot. He died from his injuries two days later.

"He then exited the building out of the back of the building and into the gated motor pool area, where he killed two more service members," said Reinhold.

Others ran out the back door and climbed over a fence to find safety.That's when they realized not everyone was accounted for.

"Once they had gotten to safety, some willingly ran back into the fight," said Brier. 

Family members say Staff Sgt. David Wyatt and Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan returned to find those unaccounted for and were shot and killed.

That's when CPD officers caught up with the shooter.

Shots were exchanged and the shooter was killed by police. 

The FBI knows where and how the suspect got the weapons he used, but won't share that information.

We do know they guns were not modified and it was one of three he had that killed all five service members.

"At this time we're treating him as a home-grown violent extremist, we believe he acted on his own that day, we believe he entered the facility on his own, we do not have any indication that anyone was assisting him on that day," said Reinhold.

Once the shooter crashed through the front gates, the entire situation lasted between three to five minutes before he was shot and killed by police.

Channel 3 was told that this was the last scheduled press conference by the FBI,

They have nearly 1,000 agents across the world working to determine if the suspect acted alone and what his motive was. 


PREVIOUS STORY: "The legacy of that day is one of valor, a day of American strength,"  is how USMC Major General Paul W. Brier honored the fallen servicemen Wednesday, as he and USN Rear Admiral Mary M. Jackson expressed their profound sympathies to the families.

New information on the Chattanooga attack that claimed the lives of five servicemen were explained in greater detail Wednesday during the joint FBI/U.S. Attorney’s Office news conference.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Ed Reinhold said that the gunman, 24-year-old Mohammad Abdulazeez, first fired shots at the military recruiting center on Lee Highway, but did not get out of his rented silver Mustang. No one was seriously injured at the office.

Reinhold described him as a "homegrown violent extremist," and said "we believe he entered the facility on his own, we do not have any indication that anyone was assisting him on that day."

Abdulazeez, who is believed to have acted alone, then drove the seven miles to the U.S. Naval Reserve Center on Amnicola Highway.

Chattanooga police, who were alerted to the first shooting , were then in pursuit, but “but not on shooter's bumper.” 

As he crashed his car through the gates, a service member opened fire on him.  At least one service member was armed with a personal weapon, and was the first to fire at the shooter.

Abdulazeez gained access to the building through the front door, where he fatally wounded one service member. He continued shooting people he encountered in the building before exiting. The four U.S. Marines were killed outside the building.

CPD officers then made entry to the Navy complex “as fast as they could." They moved toward gunshots, as they worked to located the shooter.

Once behind the building in the motor pool area, he was killed in a shootout with the Chattanooga Police Department officers. 

The entire active shooter incident only lasted 3 - 5 minutes once Abdulazeez entered the Amnicola complex.

Preliminary reports from the FBI indicate there was no friendly fire, meaning that all of the victims were killed by the same weapon, wielded by Abdulazeez.

The weapons had not been modified.

Reinhold says the agency has heard reports of gunman's mental health issues and are investigating those.

The FBI has 700 to 1,000 personnel, including 250 agents in Chattanooga alone, working on this investigation full-time. 

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