Investigators seek motive behind Tennessee shooting rampage

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Police Stationed at Military Recruiting Sites After Chattanooga Shootings

Investigators on Friday sought to determine what led a 24-year-old gunman to open fire at two military offices in Chattanooga, Tennessee, killing four Marines in an attack officials said could be an act of domestic terrorism.

Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, identified as the shooter by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, was shot to death in the rampage that also injured three people, including a sailor who was critically wounded.

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Investigators seek motive behind Tennessee shooting rampage
CHATTANOOGA, TN - JULY 16: Evidence markers sit on the ground at the scene of a shooting in the parking lot of the Armed Forces Career Center/National Guard recruitment office on July 16, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. According to reports, Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire on a military recruiting station at a strip mall and then killed four U.S. Marines at an operational support center operated by the U.S. Navy at another location more than seven miles away, where the gunmen himself was also killed. (Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images)
This April 2015 booking photo released by the Hamilton County Sheriffs Office shows a man identified as Mohammad Youssduf Adbulazeer after being detained for a driving offense. A U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity identified the gunman in shootings at two Chattanooga military facilities as Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, who shares the same age and address as the man in the photo. (Hamilton County Sheriffs Office via AP)
CHATTANOOGA, TN - JULY 16: An angel statue sits in a makeshift memorial near the scene of a shooting at a Armed Forces Career Center/National Guard recruitment office on July 16, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. According to reports, Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire on a military recruiting station at a strip mall and then killed four U.S. Marines at an operational support center operated by the U.S. Navy at another location more than seven miles away, where the gunmen himself was also killed. (Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images)
CHATTANOOGA, TN - JULY 16: Zach, Zoe and Melissa Cates add to a makeshift memorial near the scene of a shooting at a Armed Forces Career Center/National Guard recruitment office on July 16, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. According to reports, Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire on a military recruiting station at a strip mall and then killed four U.S. Marines at an operational support center operated by the U.S. Navy at another location more than seven miles away, where the gunmen himself was also killed. (Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images)
CHATTANOOGA, TN - JULY 16: A makeshift memorial is sits outside of the scene of a shooting at a Armed Forces Career Center/National Guard recruitment office on July 16, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. According to reports, Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire on a military recruiting station at a strip mall and then killed four U.S. Marines at an operational support center operated by the U.S. Navy at another location more than seven miles away, where the gunmen himself was also killed. (Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images)
CHATTANOOGA, TN - JULY 16: Chattanooga Mayor Andy Burke (R) speaks as Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (L) and Chattanooga Police Chief Fred Fletcher (2nd L) listen during a press conference at the 911 Communications Center on July 16, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. According to reports, Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire on a military recruiting station at a strip mall and then killed four U.S. Marines at an operational support center operated by the U.S. Navy at another location more than seven miles away, where the gunmen himself was also killed. (Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images)
CHATTANOOGA, TN - JULY 16: Chattanooga Police Chief Fred Fletcher during a press conference at the 911 Communications Center on July 16, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. According to reports, Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire on a military recruiting station at a strip mall and then killed four U.S. Marines at an operational support center operated by the U.S. Navy at another location more than seven miles away, where the gunmen himself was also killed. (Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images)
CHATTANOOGA, TN - JULY 16: Chattanooga Police Chief Fred Fletcher (R) speaks as Chattanooga Mayor Andy Burke (L), Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam (2nd L) listen during a press conference at the 911 Communications Center on July 16, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. According to reports, Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire on a military recruiting station at a strip mall and then killed four U.S. Marines at an operational support center operated by the U.S. Navy at another location more than seven miles away, where the gunmen himself was also killed. (Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images)
CHATTANOOGA, TN - JULY 16: Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam speaks during a press conference at the 911 Communications Center on July 16, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. According to reports, Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire on a military recruiting station at a strip mall and then killed four U.S. Marines at an operational support center operated by the U.S. Navy at another location more than seven miles away, where the gunmen himself was also killed. (Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images)
CHATTANOOGA, TN - JULY 16: Bullet holes are seen in the glass of a Armed Forces Career Center/National Guard recruitment office on July 16, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. According to reports, Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire on a military recruiting station at a strip mall and then killed four U.S. Marines at an operational support center operated by the U.S. Navy at another location more than seven miles away, where the gunmen himself was also killed. (Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images)
CHATTANOOGA, TN - JULY 16: Members of the FBI Evidence Response Team work the scene of a shooting in the parking lot of the Armed Forces Career Center/National Guard recruitment office on July 16, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. According to reports, Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire on a military recruiting station at a strip mall and then killed four U.S. Marines at an operational support center operated by the U.S. Navy at another location more than seven miles away, where the gunmen himself was also killed. (Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images)
An investigator searches under a vehicle parked outside an Armed Forces Career Center,Thursday, July 16, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tenn. A gunman opened fire outside the building Thursday morning. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
In this frame from video, law enforcement officers surround a house in Hixson, Tenn., Thursday, July 16, 2015. A gunman unleashed a barrage of fire at two sites a few miles apart in Chattanooga, killing several, officials said. The attacker was also killed. (AP Photo/Alex Sanz)
The windows of the Armed Forces Recruitment Center have several bullet holes from a shooting as the area is cordoned off with blue shell casing markers in the parking lot on Thursday, July 16, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tenn. At least two military facilities in Tennessee were attacked in shootings Thursday. (Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP)
US President Barack Obama (L) speaks during a meeting with FBI Director James Comey (R) in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, on July 16, 2015, on the shooting in Chattanooga, Tennessee. US President Barack Obama said the 'heartbreaking' shootings in Chattanooga that killed four Marines appeared to be the work of a lone gunman. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
A police officer investigates outside the Armed Forces Career Center after a gunman opened fire on the building Thursday, July 16, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Authorities say there were multiple casualties including the gunman. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Map locates two shooting sites. (via AP)
Police officers enter the Armed Forces Career Center through a bullet-riddled door after a gunman opened fire on the building Thursday, July 16, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Authorities say there were multiple casualties including the gunman. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Tennessee Highway Patrol Trooper Paul Clendenen guards the top of the C.B. Robinson Bridge at Amnicola Highway after a morning shooting near the Naval Reserve Center, in Chattanooga, Tenn. on Thursday, July 16, 2015.Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke said there's "an officer down" at a military reserve center. (Tim Barber/ChattanoogaTimes Free Press via AP)
In this image made from video and released by WRCB-TV, authorities work an active shooting scene on amincola highway near the Naval Reserve Center, in Chattanooga, Tenn. on Thursday, July 16, 2015. Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke says police are pursuing an active shooter after reports of a shooting at the military reserve center. (WRCB-TV via AP) 
In this image made from video and released by WRCB-TV, authorities work an active shooting scene on amincola highway near the Naval Reserve Center, in Chattanooga, Tenn. on Thursday, July 16, 2015. Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke says police are pursuing an active shooter after reports of a shooting at the military reserve center. (WRCB-TV via AP)
A highway patrolman stands guard atop the C.B. Robinson Bridge as police and emergency vehicles crowd Amnicola Highway after a morning shooting near the Naval Reserve Center, in Chattanooga, Tenn. on Thursday, July 16, 2015. Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke said there's "an officer down" at a military reserve center. (Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP)
Police and emergency vehicles block Amnicola Highway after a morning shooting near the Naval Reserve Center, in Chattanooga, Tenn. on Thursday, July 16, 2015. Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke said there's "an officer down" at a military reserve center. (Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP)
Reserve Recruitment personnel stand outside a Navy recruiting building as the area is cordoned off with blue shell casing markers in the parking lot on Thursday, July 16, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tenn. At least two military facilities in Tennessee were attacked in shootings Thursday, including one at a Navy recruiting building, officials said. (Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP)
Chattanooga police talk to Reserve Recruitment Center personnel at the Lee Hwy office as the area is cordoned off with blue shell casing markers in the parking lot on Thursday, July 16, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tenn. At least two military facilities in Tennessee were attacked in shootings Thursday, including one at a Navy recruiting building, officials said. (Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP) 
Store employees look out their door next to the Reserve Recruitment Center as the area is cordoned off after a shooting on Thursday, July 16, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tenn. At least two military facilities in Tennessee were attacked in shootings Thursday, including one at a Navy recruiting building, officials said. (Tim Barber/ChattanoogaTimes Free Press via AP)
In this image made from video and released by WRCB-TV, authorities work an active shooting scene on amincola highway near the Naval Reserve Center, in Chattanooga, Tenn. on Thursday, July 16, 2015. Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke says police are pursuing an active shooter after reports of a shooting at the military reserve center. (WRCB-TV via AP) 
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The attack comes at a time when U.S. military and law enforcement authorities are increasingly concerned about the threat "lone wolves" pose to domestic targets.

The suspect, seen driving an open-top Ford Mustang, first went to a joint military recruiting center in a strip mall and sprayed it with gunfire, riddling the glass facade with bullet holes.

"Everybody was at a standstill and as soon as he pulled away everyone scrambled, trying to make sure everyone was OK," said Erica Wright, who works two doors down from the center.

The gunman then drove off to a Naval Reserve Center about 6 miles (10 km) away, fatally shooting the four Marines before being shot and killed in a firefight with police.

Three others were wounded in the attacks, including a police officer reported to be in stable condition and a Marine. The shootings began around 10:45 a.m. (1445 GMT) and ended about 30 minutes later.

NBC News reported that Abdulazeez was a naturalized American who was born in Kuwait. U.S. law enforcement officials said they were investigating whether he was inspired by Islamic State or a similar group.

Islamic State had threatened to step up violence in the holy fasting month of Ramadan, which ends on Friday evening.

The extremist group, also known as ISIS and ISIL, claimed responsibility when a gunman in Tunisia opened fire at a popular tourist hotel and killed 37 people in June. On the same day, there was an attack in France and a suicide bombing in Kuwait.

At a news conference late Thursday, Edward Reinhold, special agent in charge of the FBI's Knoxville, Tennessee, division, said investigators had found nothing that tied the suspect to an international terrorist organization.

Nobody else had been taken into custody, he said.

The SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks extremist groups, said that Abdulazeez blogged on Monday that "life is short and bitter" and Muslims should not miss an opportunity to "submit to Allah." Reuters could not independently verify the blog postings.

The New York Times, citing unnamed law enforcement officials, reported that his father had been under investigation several years ago, over possible ties to a foreign terrorist organization. His name was later removed from a terror watch list.

According to a resume believed to have been posted online by Abdulazeez, he attended high school in a Chattanooga suburb and graduated from the University of Tennessee with an engineering degree.

"I remember him being very creative. He was a very light-minded kind of individual. All his videos were always very unique and entertaining," said Greg Raymond, 28, who worked with Abdulazeez on a high school television program.

"He was a really calm, smart and cool person who joked around. Like me, he wasn't very popular so we always kind of got along. He seemed like a really normal guy," Raymond said.

Mary Winter, president of the Colonial Shores Neighborhood Association, said she had known Abdulazeez and his family for more than 10 years and was stunned.

"He never caused any trouble," she said. "We can't believe that this happened."

"HEARTBREAKING CIRCUMSTANCE"

President Barack Obama offered his condolences to the victims' families and said officials would be prompt and thorough in getting answers on the shootings.

"It is a heartbreaking circumstance for these individuals who have served our country with great valor to be killed in this fashion," he said in a statement from the Oval Office.

The Department of Homeland Security was stepping up security at certain federal facilities and supporting the FBI investigation, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement.

Media in Chattanooga, a city of about 173,000 people along the Tennessee River in the southeast of the state, said memorial services for the victims would be held in various churches.

The Department of Defense will decide whether to release the names of the victims, federal officials said.

An autopsy will determine how Abdulazeez died.

The attack drew condemnation from Islamic groups.

"We condemn this horrific attack in the strongest terms possible," said Nihad Awad, national director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

There have been other attacks on U.S. military personnel in the United States.

In 2009, former U.S. Army major Nidal Hasan fatally shot 13 people at Fort Hood in Texas. He said he targeted unarmed soldiers preparing for deployment in retaliation for U.S. wars in the Muslim world.

And in May, two gunmen opened fire with assault rifles at a heavily guarded Texas exhibit of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad. Both men were shot to death by responding authorities.

(Reporting by Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago, Eric Johnson in Seattle, Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee, David Bailey in Minneapolis, Frank McGurty and Katie Reiley in New York,Emily Stephenson, Julia Edwards, Lindsay Dunsmuir, Doina Chiacu and David Alexanderin Washington, Dan Whitcomb and Victoria Cavaliere in Los Angeles; Writing by Jon Herskovitz and Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Clarence Fernandez)

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