Family spokesman: Mental health issues dogged shooter who killed 5

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Shooter's Family Says He Suffered From Depression

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) -- A Kuwait-born man who shot and killed five service members in Tennessee suffered from depression since his early teen years and also fought drug and alcohol abuse, spending time in Jordan last year to help him clean himself up, a family spokesman said Sunday.

The representative, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid unwanted publicity, said relatives of 24-year-old Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez believe those personal struggles are at the heart of last week's killings at a pair of military sites in Chattanooga.

"They do not know of anything else to explain it," said the representative, who has been involved with the family since the shootings.

The claim fits a pattern of behavior by Abdulazeez that includes a drunken driving arrest earlier this year and the loss of a job over a failed drug test.

Emotional photos of the tributes and memorials created in Chattanooga following the shooting:

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Chattanooga, Tennessee Shooting memorials, tributes
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Family spokesman: Mental health issues dogged shooter who killed 5
Marine First Sargeant John Coyne announces the names of the fallen Marines and Sailor during Roll Call at a memorial service Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tenn. The service is for four Marines and a sailor killed as a result of attacks on a military recruiting station and a Naval operations center July 16 in Chattanooga. (AP Photo/Mark Gilliland)
In this image released by the U.S. Navy, pallbearers carry the casket of Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Scott Smith at the Chattanooga National Cemetery, Tuesday, July 28, 2015. Scott was one of five servicemen whose death was the result of a series of shootings at military facilities in Chattanooga, Tenn., on July 16, 2015.(Spc. 2nd Class Justin Wolpert/U.S. Navy via AP)
Pallbearers carry the casket of U.S. Navy Logistics Specialist 2nd Class Randall Smith after a service at First Baptist Church, Tuesday, July 28, 2015, in Fort Oglethorpe, Ga. Smith was wounded and later died during an attack on military facilities in Chattanooga, Tenn., on July 16, 2015. (Michael D. Cole/U.S. Navy via AP)
Marines give a final salute to Marine Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan during ceremony at the Massachusetts Veterans' Memorial Cemetery, Monday, July 27, 2015, in Agawam, Mass. Sullivan was one of five service members killed by a gunman in Chattanooga, Tenn. on July 16. The gunman was killed by police. (Don Tregger/The Republican via AP, Pool)
Mourners arrive at Holy Cross Church for a funeral service for Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan in Springfield, Mass., Monday, July 27, 2015. Sullivan was one of five service members shot to death in the July 16 attack in Chattanooga. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Cathy Wells, center, the mother of Lance Cpl. Squire Wells, known as "Skip," stands after being presented with flowers at a memorial service at Sprayberry High School, where Wells attended, Tuesday, July 21, 2015, in Marietta, Ga. Crowds gathered at the suburban Atlanta high school to remember the Marine who was fatally shot in an attack on military facilities in Chattanooga, Tenn. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Cathy Wells, left, the mother of Lance Cpl. Squire Wells, known as "Skip," is embraced by Lance Cpl. Kurt Bright, one of Wells' best friends upon arriving for a memorial service for her son at Sprayberry High School where he attended, Tuesday, July 21, 2015, in Marietta, Ga. Crowds gathered at the suburban Atlanta high school to remember the Marine who was fatally shot in an attack on military facilities in Chattanooga, Tenn. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Mourners cheer during a memorial service for Lance Cpl. Squire Wells, known as "Skip," at Sprayberry High School where Wells attended, Tuesday, July 21, 2015, in Marietta, Ga. Crowds gathered at the suburban Atlanta high school to remember the Marine who was fatally shot in an attack on military facilities in Chattanooga, Tenn. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Balloons are released during a memorial service for Lance Cpl. Squire Wells, known as "Skip," at Sprayberry High School where he attended, Tuesday, July 21, 2015, in Marietta, Ga. Crowds gathered at the suburban Atlanta high school to remember the Marine who was fatally shot in an attack on military facilities in Chattanooga, Tenn. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Bill Lettmkuhl kneels by a makeshift memorial in front of near the Armed Forces Career Center on Friday, July 17, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, of Hixson, Tenn., attacked two military facilities on Thursday, in a shooting rampage that killed four Marines. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
CHATTANOOGA, TN - JULY 19: Keari Anderson walks through the memorial near the Armed Forces Career Center/National Guard Recruitment Office which had been shot up on July 19, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. . The gunman Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire on the military recruiting station at the strip mall on July 16th and then drove more than seven miles away to an operational support center operated by the U.S. Navy and killed four United States Marines and a Navy sailor. The gunman was likely killed in a exchange of gunfire with the police. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
CHATTANOOGA, TN - JULY 18: Ronald May prays as he supports a cross at a memorial setup in front of the Armed Forces Career Center/National Guard Recruitment Office which had been shot up on July 18, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. According to reports, Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire on the military recruiting station on July 16th at the strip mall and then drove to an operational support center operated by the U.S. Navy and killed four United States Marines there and a Navy sailor. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
CHATTANOOGA, TN - JULY 19: Ron Fahy and Misty Fahy hold a sign that reads,' American Lives Matter', as they attend a prayer service near the Armed Forces Career Center/National Guard Recruitment Office which had been shot up on July 19, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. . The gunman Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire on the military recruiting station at the strip mall on July 16th and then drove more than seven miles away to an operational support center operated by the U.S. Navy and killed four United States Marines and a Navy sailor. The gunman was likely killed in a exchange of gunfire with the police. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
CHATTANOOGA, TN - JULY 19: Vehicles flying American flags are seen as they arrive near the Armed Forces Career Center/National Guard Recruitment Office which had been shot up on July 19, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The gunman Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire on the military recruiting station at the strip mall on July 16th and then drove more than seven miles away to an operational support center operated by the U.S. Navy and killed four United States Marines and a Navy sailor. The gunman was likely killed in a exchange of gunfire with the police. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
CHATTANOOGA, TN - JULY 19: Jared Eldridge (L) and Zach Henderson fly American flags over highway 153 as they show their support for their country after four U.S. Marines and a Navy sailor were killed on July 19, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The gunman Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire on the military recruiting station at the strip mall on July 16th and then drove more than seven miles away to an operational support center operated by the U.S. Navy and killed four United States Marines and a Navy sailor. The gunman was likely killed in a exchange of gunfire with the police. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
CHATTANOOGA, TN - JULY 19: John Kennon (L) and Lilla Kennon attend the East Ridge United Methodist Church for a prayer service to honor the four Marines and one Navy sailor killed during a shooting on July 19, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The gunman Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire on the military recruiting station at the strip mall on July 16th and then drove more than seven miles away to an operational support center operated by the U.S. Navy and killed four United States Marines and a Navy sailor. The gunman was likely killed in a exchange of gunfire with the police. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
CHATTANOOGA, TN - JULY 19: Lilla Kennon wipes away tears as she attends the East Ridge United Methodist Church for a prayer service to honor the four Marines and one Navy sailor killed during a shooting on July 19, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The gunman Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire on the military recruiting station at the strip mall on July 16th and then drove more than seven miles away to an operational support center operated by the U.S. Navy and killed four United States Marines and a Navy sailor. The gunman was likely killed in a exchange of gunfire with the police. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
CHATTANOOGA, TN - JULY 19: Teresa Jennings (L) and Miranda Jennings hold candles as they attend the East Ridge United Methodist Church for a prayer service to honor the four Marines and one Navy sailor killed during a shooting on July 19, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The gunman Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire on the military recruiting station at the strip mall on July 16th and then drove more than seven miles away to an operational support center operated by the U.S. Navy and killed four United States Marines and a Navy sailor. The gunman was likely killed in a exchange of gunfire with the police. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
CHATTANOOGA, TN - JULY 19: Members of the Highways and Hedges Ministry prepare to setup a wooden cross near the Armed Forces Career Center/National Guard Recruitment Office which had been shot up on July 19, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. . The gunman Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire on the military recruiting station at the strip mall on July 16th and then drove more than seven miles away to an operational support center operated by the U.S. Navy and killed four United States Marines and a Navy sailor. The gunman was likely killed in a exchange of gunfire with the police. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
CHATTANOOGA, TN - JULY 18: U.S. Navy sailor Evan Montgomery places American flags in a memorial setup in front of the Armed Forces Career Center/National Guard Recruitment Office which had been shot up on July 18, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. According to reports, Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire on the military recruiting station at the strip mall on July 16th and then drove more than seven miles away to an operational support center operated by the U.S. Navy and killed four United States Marines and a Navy sailor. The gunman was likely killed in a exchange of gunfire with the police. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
CHATTANOOGA, TN - JULY 18: Christina Reed (L), Aaron Workman and Julia Morrison (R) pay their respects at a memorial setup at the entrance to the Navy Operational Support Center and Marine Corps Reserve Center where four United States Marines and a Navy sailor were killed on July 18, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. According to reports, Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire on the military recruiting station at the strip mall on July 16th and then drove more than seven miles away to an operational support center operated by the U.S. Navy and killed four United States Marines and a Navy sailor. The gunman was likely killed in a exchange of gunfire with the police. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
CHATTANOOGA, TN - JULY 18: Joan Jones holds Isaiah Watson ,2, as they pay their respect at a memorial setup at the entrance to the Navy Operational Support Center and Marine Corps Reserve Center where four United States Marines and a Navy sailor were killed on July 18, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. According to reports, Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire on the military recruiting station at the strip mall on July 16th and then drove more than seven miles away to an operational support center operated by the U.S. Navy and killed four United States Marines and a Navy sailor. The gunman was likely killed in a exchange of gunfire with the police. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
CHATTANOOGA, TN - JULY 18: A sign is seen among the memorial setup in front of the Armed Forces Career Center/National Guard Recruitment Office on July 18, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. According to reports, Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire on the military recruiting station on July 16th at the strip mall and then drove to an operational support center operated by the U.S. Navy and killed four United States Marines there, more than seven miles away, (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
CHATTANOOGA, TN - JULY 19: Flowers and a sign are seen in the memorial near the Armed Forces Career Center/National Guard Recruitment Office which had been shot up on July 19, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. . The gunman Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire on the military recruiting station at the strip mall on July 16th and then drove more than seven miles away to an operational support center operated by the U.S. Navy and killed four United States Marines and a Navy sailor. The gunman was likely killed in a exchange of gunfire with the police. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Heather Brame and her son, J.T. left, sign a poster by a makeshift memorial outside the Armed Forces Career Center Saturday, July 18, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tenn. The U.S. Navy says a sailor who was shot in the attack on a military facility in Chattanooga has died, raising the death toll to five people. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
A man and woman comfort one another by a makeshift memorial outside the Armed Forces Career Center, Friday, July 17, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Counterterrorism investigators are trying to figure out why a 24-year-old Kuwait-born man, who by accounts lived a typical life in suburban America, attacked the career center and a Navy-Marine training center a few miles away in a shooting rampage that killed four Marines. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
Laurie Norman becomes emotional as she looks at a makeshift memorial outside a military recruiting center Friday, July 17, 2015, where a gunman opened fire Thursday in Chattanooga, Tenn. Counterterrorism investigators are trying to figure out why a 24-year-old Kuwait-born man, who by accounts lived a typical life in suburban America, attacked the career center and a Navy-Marine training center a few miles away in a shooting rampage that killed four Marines. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
CHATTANOOGA, TN - JULY 19: Toy soldiers are seen in the memorial setup near the Armed Forces Career Center/National Guard Recruitment Office which had been shot up on July 19, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. . The gunman Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire on the military recruiting station at the strip mall on July 16th and then drove more than seven miles away to an operational support center operated by the U.S. Navy and killed four United States Marines and a Navy sailor. The gunman was likely killed in a exchange of gunfire with the police. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Regina Ingram looks at a makeshift memorial outside a military recruiting center Friday, July 17, 2015, where a gunman opened fire Thursday in Chattanooga, Tenn. Counterterrorism investigators are trying to figure out why a 24-year-old Kuwait-born man, who by accounts lived a typical life in suburban America, attacked the career center and a Navy-Marine training center a few miles away in a shooting rampage that killed four Marines. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
CHATTANOOGA, TN - JULY 17: Melissa Gallagher prays with her children as they pay their respects to those killed while visiting a memorial placed in front of the Armed Forces Career Center/National Guard Recruitment Office which had been shot up on July 17, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. According to reports, Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire on the military recruiting station on July 16th at the strip mall and then drove to an operational support center operated by the U.S. Navy and killed four United States Marines there, more than seven miles away, (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Flags stand in a make-shift memorial as people gather at the scene of a military recruiting office in Chattanooga, Tenn., on Monday, July 20, 2015, four days after it was targeted in a pair of shootings that left five people dead. Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez attacked two military facilities, including the career center, last week in a shooting rampage that killed a U.S. Navy sailor and four Marines. (AP Photo/Jay Reeves)
CHATTANOOGA, TN - JULY 17: Johnny Stapp whose son just entered the Marine Corps. places flags in the memorial in front of the Armed Forces Career Center/National Guard Recruitment Office which had been shot up on July 17, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. According to reports, Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire on the military recruiting station on July 16th at the strip mall and then drove to an operational support center operated by the U.S. Navy and killed four United States Marines there, more than seven miles away, (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
CHATTANOOGA, TN - JULY 17: Eli Arnold places an American flag in the memorial in front of the Armed Forces Career Center/National Guard Recruitment Office which had been shot up on July 17, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. According to reports, Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire on the military recruiting station on July 16th at the strip mall and then drove to an operational support center operated by the U.S. Navy and killed four United States Marines there, more than seven miles away, (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
CHATTANOOGA, TN - JULY 17: Alicia Nerren (R) prays with her children as they pay their respects to those killed while visiting a memorial placed in front of the Armed Forces Career Center/National Guard Recruitment Office which had been shot up on July 17, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. According to reports, Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire on the military recruiting station on July 16th at the strip mall and then drove to an operational support center operated by the U.S. Navy and killed four United States Marines there, more than seven miles away, (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
CHATTANOOGA, TN - JULY 17: Laurie Norman is overcome with emotion as she pays her respects to those killed while visiting a memorial placed in front of the Armed Forces Career Center/National Guard Recruitment Office which had been shot up on July 17, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. According to reports, Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire on the military recruiting station on July 16th at the strip mall and then drove to an operational support center operated by the U.S. Navy and killed four United States Marines there, more than seven miles away, (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
CHATTANOOGA, TN - JULY 17: Blake Miller and his mother, Ashley Miller whose husband is a Lieutenant in the Marine Corps pay their respects to those killed while visiting a memorial placed in front of the Armed Forces Career Center/National Guard Recruitment Office which had been shot up on July 17, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. According to reports, Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire on the military recruiting station at the strip mall and then drove to an operational support center operated by the U.S. Navy more than seven miles away and killed four United States Marines there. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
CHATTANOOGA, TN - JULY 17: Miller-Motte Technical College students and others join in prayer across the highway from the strip mall where a gunman attacked the Armed Forces Career Center/National Guard Recruitment Office on July 17, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. According to reports, Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire on the military recruiting station at the strip mall on July 16th and then drove to an operational support center operated by the U.S. Navy more than seven miles away and killed four United States Marines there. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
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Abdulazeez had spent several months in Jordan last year under a mutual agreement with his parents to help him get away from drugs, alcohol and a group of friends who relatives considered a bad influence, the spokesman said

Counterterrorism investigators continue to interview Abdulazeez's acquaintances and delve into his visit to Jordan, looking for clues to whom or what might have influenced him and set off the bloodshed.

FBI spokesman Jason Pack declined comment on whether investigators were pursuing mental health records for Abdulazeez. But FBI Special Agent Ed Reinhold told reporters at the most recent news conference about the case that agents were looking into all aspects of his life and had not yet turned up any connections to Islamic terrorist groups.

Abdulazeez opened fire at a military recruiting office and a Navy-Marine operations center a few miles apart on Thursday, killing four Marines. A sailor wounded in the attack died Saturday. There is no explanation for why he targeted the military facilities.

Abdulazeez, who was shot and killed by police after a hail of gunfire, was first treated by a child psychiatrist for depression when he was 12 or 13 years old, said the family representative.

"He was medicated like many children are. Through high school and college he did a better job sometimes than others staying with it," said the spokesman.

Several years ago, relatives tried to have Abdulazeez admitted to an in-patient program for drug and alcohol abuse but a health insurer refused to approve the expense, said the representative.

The exact timing was unclear, but court records show Abdulazeez's parents reconciled after his mother sought a divorce in early 2009 over claims that included physical abuse of both her and the children, and sexual abuse of her while the children were in the household.

The representative said that Abdulazeez had owned guns for years, going back to when he was a child shooting at squirrels and targets, and called himself an "Arab redneck" or "Muslim redneck."

A year after graduating from college with an engineering degree, Abdulazeez lost a job at a nuclear power plant in Ohio in May 2013 because of what a federal official described as a failed drug test.

Recently, Abdulazeez had begun working the night shift at a manufacturing plant and was taking medication to help with problems sleeping in the daytime, the representative said, and he also had a prescription for muscle relaxants because of a back problem.

It's unknown what substances were in the man's system at the time of the slayings, but toxicology tests should provide an answer.

After returning from his time overseas, Abdulazeez was arrested on a charge of driving under the influence in the pre-dawn hours on April 20. A police report said he told a Chattanooga officer he also was with friends who had been smoking marijuana. The report said Abdulazeez, who had white powder on his nose when he was stopped, told the officer he also had sniffed powdered caffeine.

The arrest was "important" because Abdulazeez was deeply embarrassed and seemed to sink further into depression following the episode, the representative said. Some close relatives learned of the charge only days before the shooting, the person said.

Bassam Issa, president of the Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga, said he knew nothing of Abdulazeez's problems, despite knowing his father well through the mosque. But, he added, that is not surprising. Drinking alcohol and using drugs is strictly forbidden in the Islamic faith.

"In our culture, if a son or daughter is having those sorts of problems, they keep it a secret because of the shame," Issa said. "As a parent, you always want to be able to say your child is making you proud, not that they are struggling."

A former college professor who saw Abdulazeez at their mosque six days before the killings said the young man didn't seem different after returning from Jordan last year or during their final encounter.

"I just saw the same friendly guy as before," said Abdul Ofoli, who teaches electrical engineering at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where Abdulazeez graduated in 2012.

Ofoli, who sponsors the university's Muslim Student Association, said Abdulazeez wasn't very involved with the group to his knowledge and rarely said much in class but was a good student.

"He was brilliant," said Ofoli.


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