A shooter opened fire on two military facilities today in Chattanooga, Tenn., one at a recruitment center and the other at a Navy Reserve center seven miles apart.
Four were killed and three wounded, including a police officer who was hit in the ankle while engaging the suspect on the pursuit. The shooter was also killed.
The Pentagon confirmed that the four killed were Marines.
FBI special agent in charge Ed Reinhold said the shooting began at 10:45 a.m. at the recruiting station and the assailant was pursued to Naval Reserve center, where the Marines were killed. Reinhold said the attack “ended within 30 minutes.”
A CNN reporter noted that the other stores in the strip mall that housed the recruitment center didn’t have bullet holes in their windows.
Witnesses described a silver convertible with the top dropped driven by a male pulling up outside the recruiting center, getting out and firing dozens of shots.
Officials were tight-lipped about the shooter, not revealing an age but confirming that he did not work at either shooting site. Reinhold said they believe the shooter was “from area or was residing in area prior to this event” and he was “not aware” of the shooter having any military background. He had “numerous” weapons, which the FBI agent would not describe.
CBS News, though, reported the shooter’s name was Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez.
U.S. Attorney for Eastern District of Tennessee Bill Killian told reporters at the press conference “we are treating this as an act of domestic terrorism.”
Reinhold then clarified that they did not know if it was domestic or international terrorism, or a criminal act without links to terrorism. He said they have not ruled out links to ISIS.
“We will treat this as a terrorism investigation until we can determine it was not,” he said.
After Killian was corrected by Reinhold, the U.S. Attorney admonished reporters to “not get caught up in labels.”
“We believe it was a single shooter at this point,” Reinhold said, adding his office “had no intelligence indicating there would be any type of an attack today.”
Reinhold was asked if personnel at the facilities were allowed to carry weapons. He replied that he did not know but “typically someone cannot bring a weapon onto federal property unless they’re authorized to do so.”
He said federal officials are on “no higher threat level then we were before.”
A no-fly zone was temporarily enacted over Chattanooga after the shooting.
The Defense Department put all military facilities on Force Protection Bravo in early May. They said the heightened state of alert wasn’t in response to a specific terrorist threat.
The Islamic holy month of Ramadan ends tomorrow, and ISIS called for attacks during this period.
Officials were asked at the press conference, yet said they couldn’t yet make a determination, if there was a connection to the trial of Robert Doggart, a former congressional candidate accused of plotting to attack the Muslim hamlet of Islamberg in New York. He pleaded not guilty on Tuesday as Muslims of America, Inc. protested in Chattanooga.
“I am deeply disturbed by reports of a violent attack in Chattanooga,” Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said in a statement. “I have been in touch with federal, state and local officials and will monitor the situation closely. My thoughts and prayers are with everyone involved.”
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who was Chattanooga mayor from 2001-2005, said he was “heartbroken by the tragic shootings that have taken place today in my hometown.”
“We have been in touch with federal, state and local officials and continue to monitor developments and have offered our assistance,” Corker said. “This is a difficult day for Tennesseans and our thoughts and prayers are with all affected by this tragedy.”
White House spokesman Eric Schultz, traveling with President Obama to an Oklahoma federal prison today, said “the president has been briefed by his national security staff on the Chattanooga shooting, and will continue to get updates as warranted.”
“Our Marines don’t flinch when they take on our enemies abroad,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said. “It is heartbreaking when they are attacked here at home.”
Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke said it was “incomprehensible to see what happened and the way individuals who proudly serve our country were treated.”
“This is a nightmare for the city of Chattanooga but one for which we will respond,” Berke said.
This story was updated at 3:30 p.m. EST