Chattanooga Shooter Termed "Homegrown Violent Extremist" Who Acted Alone; Navy To Award Purple Hearts To Shooting Victims

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The FBI has termed the Hixson man who killed five military personnel in Chattanooga in a shooting rampage as a "homegrown violent extremist."

Ed Reinhold, who oversaw the investigation, said Mohammad Abdulazeez acted alone in attacks on military installations at Lee Highway and Amnicola Highway.

The first shooting was from a rented convertible and the second he got out and began firing.

Agt. Reinhold said shots were fired at Abdulazeez after he crashed through the gate at the Naval and Marine Center, but he was not hit.

He said the shooter went through the building firing, and he was killed in a rear motor pool.

Meanwhile, the Navy said it will posthumously award Purple Heart medals to the four Marines and a sailor killed by the lone terrorist in July. Another Marine wounded in the shooting will also be awarded the Purple Heart.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said, "Following an extensive investigation, the FBI and NCIS have determined that this attack was inspired by a foreign terrorist group, the final criteria required for the awarding of the Purple Heart to this sailor and these Marines.

"This determination allows the Department of the Navy to move forward immediately with the award of the Purple Heart to the families of the five heroes who were victims of this terrorist attack, as well as to the surviving hero."

"We've investigated Chattanooga as a terror attack from the beginning," Director James Comey said, according to a report from Fox News. "The Chattanooga killer was inspired by a foreign terror organization. It's hard to untangle which particular source … there are lots of competing poisons out there."

The Navy said the language that Director Comey used "was important because the law that governs the Purple Heart specifies that service secretaries can award the decoration in stateside incidents when the attacker was in contact with and inspired by foreign terror organizations."

Marine Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, Lance Cpl. Squire K. Wells, Staff Sgt. David Wyatt and Sgt. Carson Holmquist were killed at Navy Operational Support Center Chattanooga on July 16, and Navy Logistics Specialist 2nd Class Randall Smith died July 18 from wounds sustained during the shooting. Marine Sgt. DeMonte Cheeley was shot in the leg and later recovered. All were nominated for Purple Hearts.

Benefits include burial in a National Cemetery free of cost and a monthly payment from the Veterans Administration to the families of service members killed in action.

Secretary Mabus said, "Although the Purple Heart can never possibly replace this brave sailor and these brave Marines, it is my hope that as their families and the entire Department of the Navy team continue to mourn their loss, these awards provide some small measure of solace. Their heroism and service to our nation will be remembered always."

Senator Bob Corker applauded the announcement that the Department of the Navy will award the Purple Heart to the slain military personnel.

He said, “The men we lost - and those who were wounded - on July 16 in the deadly terror attack in Chattanooga exemplify the very best that America has to offer, and I am pleased to learn they will be awarded the Purple Heart.

“Our commander-in-chief has classified the heartbreaking events that took place that day as an act of terror, and I have been pressing the FBI to provide answers to both the families of the fallen and our community. I appreciate the efforts of all involved as they work tirelessly to piece together this puzzle so we can better protect ourselves in the future. The threat of terrorism is not just something we see across our shores anymore; it’s here in our homeland; it hit my hometown; and we must continue to show resolve in the fight against this evil.”

Senator Lamar Alexander said, “Five months ago today, a horrific act of terrorism shocked the Chattanooga community, taking the lives of Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, Staff Sgt. David Wyatt, Sgt. Carson A. Holmquist, Lance Cpl. Squire D. ‘Skip’ Wells, and Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith and injuring Sgt. DeMonte Cheeley. They were young men dedicated to serving our country, and today, these heroes are being awarded the Purple Hearts they deserve for their bravery and courage. When I spoke at the July memorial service of those who died, I quoted a poet who said it best: ‘They will never grow old, they will always be young and we know one thing with every bit of our thinking, they’re in the arms of God.’”



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