Biden calls Chattanooga shooter a 'perverted jihadist'

Biden: Chattanooga Gunman a 'Perverted Jihadist'


CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — Vice President Joe Biden on Saturday called the slaying of four Marines and a sailor at a Chattanooga reserve center the act of a "perverted jihadist."

Biden's comments came at a memorial to the five servicemen killed in a shooting rampage by Kuwait-born Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez.

SEE ALSO: Chattanooga shooting: Navy plans armed guards for reserve centers

"These perverse ideologues, warped theocrats, they may be able to inspire a single lone wolf to commit a savage act, but they can never, never threaten who we are," Biden said. "When this perverted jihadist struck, everyone responded."

The vice president's strong words contrast with the official comments of investigators who have not yet been able to determine a motive behind the attack. The FBI has said it has not been able to determine whether the 24-year-old Abdulazeez was "radicalized" before the July 16 attacks and has been treating him as a homegrown violent extremist.

Speaking before Biden, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said officials may never know "what combination of disturbed mind, violent extremism and hateful ideology" was behind the shooting, but vowed that the United States would present a strong response.

"The few who threaten or incite harm to Americans — violent extremists or terrorists, wherever they are — will surely, very surely, no matter how long it takes, come to feel the long arm and the hard fist of justice," Carter said.

Those killed were Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith and four Marines: Staff Sgt. David Wyatt, Sgt. Carson Holmquist, Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan and Lance Cpt. Squire "Skip" Wells, who just moments before had texted his girlfriend in Savannah, Georgia, the words "ACTIVE SHOOTER."

Abdulazeez began the July 16 rampage by opening fire on a military recruiting center before driving his rented Mustang about 7 miles across town to a reserve center, crashing through the gates and killing the five servicemen. Abdulazeez died in a shootout with police.

Photos from the horrific shooting in Chattanooga:

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Biden calls Chattanooga shooter a 'perverted jihadist'
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)
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)
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)
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Friends and neighbors recalled Abdulazeez as a happy, polite young man. But a picture has also emerged showing a darker side, with Abdulazeez's family saying he struggled with depression from his early teens, abused drugs, couldn't keep a job and was considering bankruptcy.

Abdulazeez spent several months with an uncle in Jordan last year as part of an agreement to get him away from drugs, alcohol and a group of friends his parents considered a bad influence, a person close to the family has said. That person spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid business repercussions.

Biden, whose son Beau died of brain cancer in May, said he could relate to the grief of the victims' families.

"I didn't have the privilege of knowing any one of them personally," Biden said. "But oh, I knew them. Confident, determined, trustworthy, compassionate and always, always loyal."

"I knew them," he said. "They were my son. And so many other sons I know."

Beau Biden was a major in an Army National Guard unit that deployed to Iraq in 2008.

The vice president drew applause for concluding his remarks with a defiant message for anyone who would target the United States.

"We have a message for those perverted cowards around the world: America never yields, never bends, never cowers, never stands down — (but) endures, responds, and always overcomes," he said. "For we are Americans, and never, never underestimate us.

"It's always been a bad, bad bet to do that."

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Related - Photos from the memorial service for Joe Biden's late son, Beau:
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Biden calls Chattanooga shooter a 'perverted jihadist'
(L-R) Beau Biden's brother Hunter (top L), son Hunter (bottom L), widow Hallie, Vice President Joe Biden and daughter Natalie look on before a funeral mass for former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, son of Vice President Biden, at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Wilmington, Delaware June 6, 2015. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers the eulogy during the funeral of former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, son of Vice President Joe Biden, at St. Anthony of Padua church in Wilimington, Delaware June 6, 2015. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden leave following the funeral for former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, son of Vice President Joe Biden, at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Wilmington, Delaware June 6, 2015. REUTERS/Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Pool
Singer Chris Martin of the band Coldplay hugs Vice President Joe Biden after performing the song "Til' Kingdom Come" during the funeral of Biden's son, former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, at St. Anthony of Padua church in Wilimington, Delaware June 6, 2015. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Chris Martin of the band Coldplay sings the song "Til' Kingdom Come" during the funeral of former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, son of Vice President Joe Biden, at St. Anthony of Padua church in Wilimington, Delaware June 6, 2015. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Vice President Joseph Biden (R) greets clergyman after a funeral mass for former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, son of Vice President Biden, at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Wilmington, Delaware June 6, 2015. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston
U.S. President Barack Obama returns to the White House with first lady Michelle Obama (R) and their daughter Sasha after attending the Delaware funeral of Vice President Joe Biden's late son Beau, in Washington June 6, 2015. REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan
President Barack Obama delivers a eulogy at the funeral for former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, son of Vice President Biden, at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Wilmington, Delaware June 6, 2015. REUTERS/Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Pool
(L-R) Beau Biden's brother Hunter (top L), son Hunter (bottom L), widow Hallie, Vice President Joe Biden, daughter Natalie and stepmother Jill Biden look on before a funeral mass for former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, son of Vice President Biden, at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Wilmington, Delaware June 6, 2015. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston
U.S. President Barack Obama (R) hugs Vice President Joe Biden during the funeral of former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, son of Vice President Joe Biden, at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Wilmington, Delaware June 6, 2015. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/Pool
A procession carrying a casket enters the funeral of former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, son of Vice President Joe Biden, at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Wilmington, Delaware June 6, 2015. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/Pool
Vice President Joe Biden attends the funeral of his son, former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Wilmington, Delaware June 6, 2015. REUTERS/Doug Mills/Pool
President Barack Obama arrives at the funeral of former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, son of Vice President Joe Biden, at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Wilmington, Delaware June 5, 2015. REUTERS/Doug Mills/Pool
NEW CASTLE, DE - JUNE 6: The Delaware Health and Social Services posts a note of thanks to former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden June 6, 2015 in New Castle, Delaware. Biden died at 46 following a two-year battle with brain cancer. A mass of Christian burial was held at nearby St. Anthony of Padua Church in Wilmington, Delaware. U.S. President Barack Obama delivered a eulogy for the son of Vice President Joe Biden. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
WILMINGTON, DE - JUNE 6: U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (C) arrives with family for a mass of Christian burial at St. Anthony of Padua Church for his son, former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, on June 6, 2015 in Wilmington, Delaware. U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to deliver a eulogy for the son of Vice President Joe Biden after he died at 46 following a two-year battle with brain cancer. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
WILMINGTON, DE - JUNE 6: A funeral procession marches towards a mass of Christian burial at St. Anthony of Padua Church for former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden on June 6, 2015 in Wilmington, Delaware. U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to deliver a eulogy for the son of Vice President Joe Biden after he died at 46 following a two-year battle with brain cancer. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
WILMINGTON, DE - JUNE 6: U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (C) and his wife Dr. Jill Biden (R) arrive with family for a mass of Christian burial at St. Anthony of Padua Church for there son, former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, on June 6, 2015 in Wilmington, Delaware. U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to deliver a eulogy for the son of Vice President Joe Biden after he died at 46 following a two-year battle with brain cancer. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
WILMINGTON, DE - JUNE 6: Vice President Joe Biden (C) arrives with his family for a mass of Christian burial at St. Anthony of Padua Church for his son, former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, on June 6, 2015 in Wilmington, Delaware. U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to deliver a eulogy for the son of Vice President Joe Biden after he died at 46 following a two-year battle with brain cancer. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
WILMINGTON, DE - JUNE 6: (L-R) Eva Kislowski, 9, and Lauren Vernot, 7, hold a commemorative program for former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, as the hearse and Biden family arrive for a mass of Christian burial at St. Anthony of Padua Church on June 6, 2015 in Wilmington, Delaware. U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to deliver a eulogy for the son of Vice President Joe Biden after he died at 46 following a two-year battle with brain cancer. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
WILMINGTON, DE - JUNE 6: A funeral procession marches towards a mass of Christian burial at St. Anthony of Padua Church for former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden on June 6, 2015 in Wilmington, Delaware. U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to deliver a eulogy for the son of Vice President Joe Biden after he died at 46 following a two-year battle with brain cancer. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
WILMINGTON, DE - JUNE 6: Onlookers gather across the street before the hearse and Biden family arrive for a mass of Christian burial at St. Anthony of Padua Church for former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, on June 6, 2015 in Wilmington, Delaware. U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to deliver a eulogy for the son of Vice President Joe Biden after he died at 46 following a two-year battle with brain cancer. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
WILMINGTON, DE - JUNE 6: The coffin of former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden is carried into St. Anthony of Padua Church for a mass of Christian burial on June 6, 2015 in Wilmington, Delaware. U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to deliver a eulogy for the son of Vice President Joe Biden after he died at 46 following a two-year battle with brain cancer. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
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