The Chattanooga gunman who stormed a military training compound last week had an assault rifle, a handgun and police hot on his trail as he stalked his victims, spraying bullets and sending his targets scrambling before fire from police and at least one service member ended his rampage, authorities said Wednesday.
In the most complete picture offered by law enforcement yet of Thursday's dual attacks, authorities including Edward Reinhold, the FBI's special agent in charge of the Knoxville Division, described how Mohammed Abdulazeez rammed his car into the fence at the Navy Operational Support Center and Marine Corps Reserve Center minutes after peppering a recruiting office seven miles away.
"CPD returned fire, and neutralized the shooter."
Police called to the scene of the first shooting arrived at the Center just as Abdulazeez was blasting his way through a building Reinhold referred to as "the compound." Four Marines and a Navy sailor died, but the toll could have been bloodier had the local cops not been in hot pursuit, he said.
"[Chattanooga Police] were in pursuit, however, not on his bumper,” he said. “They made entry as fast as they could.”
Abdulazeez, 24, managed to enter the building despite being shot at by a service member who saw him burst through the gate. The suspected "home-grown violent extremist" went through the building "pursuing the sailors and Marines" and killing one inside. Maj. Gen. Paul W. Brier, commanding general of the 4th Marine Division, said 20 Marines and two Navy corpsman were in the building when Abdulazeez burst in and "reacted the way you would expect," rapidly going room to room to get others to safety before returning to confront the killer.
Abdulazeez worked his way through the building and went out a back door, then killed two more service members in a gated motor pool area, Reinhold said. As service members attempted to provide cover for others to climb a fence to safety, two more service members were gunned down. All victims appeared to have been killed by the same weapon, Reinhold said.
By the time Abdulazeez had wreaked carnage in the motor pool, city police were on the scene to take him down.
"CPD returned fire, and neutralized the shooter," Reinhold said.
Two additional weapons were found at the scene that belonged to service members. At least one was discharged at the subject, Reinhold said. Further ballistic tests and the autopsy results could be released later this week.
The Navy Times, citing multiple military officials familiar with internal reports, reported that Lt. Cmdr. Timothy White, the commanding officer at the Navy Operational Support Center, fired his sidearm at Abdulazeez during the attack.
Reinhold said the FBI has hundreds of personnel around the globe following hundreds of leads. He promised a thorough, multi-agency investigation.
Reinhold, citing the ongoing investigation, refused to comment about reports on the gunman’s link to radical Islam or mental illness.
The New York Times reported Wednesday that Abdulazeez searched the Internet in the days leading up to the attack for information from Islamic sources about whether martyrdom would bring forgiveness of his sins, such as drunkenness. The Hixson, Tenn. native was due in court after being arrested in April on a charge of driving under the influence.