On July 16, 2015, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez opened fire on two military installations in Chattanooga, Tennessee, killing four Marines and one sailor. Although President Barack Obama typically downplayed the terrorist angle of the attack at the time, FBI Director James Comey now claims that the FBI investigated the incident as a “terror attack” from the very beginning, according to Fox News.
“We’ve investigated Chattanooga as a terror attack from the beginning,” Comey said during a press conference with NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton on Wednesday. “And we’ve concluded that the Chattanooga killer was inspired by a foreign terror organization’s propaganda.” He added, “It’s often difficult — as it is with San Bernardino — to untangle which particular source… there are competing foreign terrorist poisons out there.” Comey concluded: “To my mind, there’s no doubt that the Chattanooga killer was inspired — motivated by a foreign terrorist organization’s propaganda. We’ve investigated it from the beginning as a terrorist case.”
But Obama chose to characterize the attack as a shooting incident, much like other mass shootings that had been in the news in the weeks prior. Speaking from the Oval Office just hours after the attack, the president avoided using the word “terrorism” in relation to the assault by Abdulazeez on military sites in Chattanooga. What’s more, it took until July 21 for Obama to order all American flags on federal grounds to be lowered to half-staff in honor of the five fallen service members. That came after several days of intense criticism from Republicans and veterans, and only after Speaker of the House John Boehner had ordered flags over the United States Capitol to be flown at half-staff.
Fresh in many minds was Obama’s near instantaneous reaction to the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of gay marriage on June 26. He had ostentatiously lit the people’s White House up with the colors of the rainbow gay-pride flag that very night. On the day of the terrorist attack in Chattanooga, Obama sent a celebratory message to Muslims around the world on the White House website and Twitter account. The tweets came hours before his first tweet on the subject of the five servicemen killed by the Islamic gunman.
“From my family to yours, Eid Mubarak!” —@POTUS to Muslims celebrating Eid-ul-Fitr,” the White House tweeted. This message was tweeted at 4:48 p.m. according to the White House Twitter feed.
“It is a heartbreaking circumstance” —@POTUS on the shooting in Chattanooga,” the White House tweeted at 8:08 p.m.
The president did offer a “stirring eulogy” for each of the five dead service members in his remarks at the national convention for Veterans of Foreign Wars in Pittsburgh on July 21. Shortly after he finished his remarks, Obama finally issued the presidential proclamation ordering flags to be flown at half-staff.
On August 6, after days of speculation, the Navy announced that it would not charge Lt. Cmdr. Tim White, the Navy officer who fired a sidearm in defense during the attack on the Navy Operational Support Center. But charges against the hero had reportedly been under consideration.
Lt. Cmdr. Tim White, the Navy officer who fired a sidearm in defense during the attack on Navy Operational Support Center in Chattanooga, Tenn., will not face charges, an official familiar with the investigation told Stars and Stripes on Wednesday.
White was reported to be one of two service members carrying sidearms at the time of the attack, which could have led to charges.
The Department of Defense prohibits all military personnel other than security forces from carrying arms while on base unless they are in a combat zone.
Which, as it now turns out, they were.
Finally on December 16, hours after Comey designated Chattanooga as terrorism, the secretary of the Navy announced that the victims of the attacks would receive the Purple Heart.
“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,” said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus. “Their heroism and service to our nation will be remembered always.”
An updated statement on the Chattanooga attack is expected to come this week, an FBI spokeswoman for the Knoxville office told Fox News on Wednesday.