CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (CBSNewYork/CBS News/AP) — A gunman unleashed a hail of bullets into two military facilities in Chattanooga, Tennessee Thursday, in what has been deemed an act of domestic terrorism.
The gunman killed four Marines and wounded a soldier and a police officer, officials said. The shooter was also killed.
Following the shootings, the NYPD deployed Critical Response Vehicles to increase security at military recruiting stations and other sensitive locations in New York City.
As 1010 WINS’ Al Jones reported, half a dozen officers and a K9 unit were stationed at the front doors of the Times Square Armed Services Recruitment Center Thursday night.
Increased patrols were also sent to the Army Recruitment Center on Chambers Street, and the Coast Guard Recruitment Station near the Staten Island Ferry Terminal.
“While we have no specific information about any plot against the city, until we learn more about the attack we have placed additional officers in key locations,” NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counter-Terrorism John Miller said in a news release. “We have been in regular contact with Tennessee authorities, the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force and the intelligence community.”
“Today was a nightmare for the city of Chattanooga,” Mayor Andy Berke said. “As a city, we will respond to this with every available resource that we have.”
In New York, local officials also reacted in grief. State Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn) issued a tweet.
— Dov Hikind (@HikindDov) July 16, 2015
Late Thursday, President Barack Obama also addressed the loved ones of those lost.
“I want them to know I speak for the American people in expressing our deepest condolences; knowing that they have our full support as they try to overcome their grief that’s involved,” Obama said.
As CBS2’s Dana Tyler reported, the gunman was identified late Thursday afternoon as Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, 24.
The FBI said the shooter, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was born in Kuwait but lived with his family in the Chattanooga area, CBS News’s Kenneth Craig reported. Late Thursday, they did not know why he targeted the military in his assault.
Abdulazeez was not on any U.S. terror list, and the FBI was not aware of any terror inclinations, CBS News’ Weijia Jiang reported.
“We’re going to do an intense look at him to see what his connections are,” said FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Ed Reinhold. “We’ll look at his friends, family, associates — anybody who is associated with him to determine the cause or the reason why he conducted this attack.”
Officials will try to find out if Abdulazeez was motivated or influenced by ISIS.
U.S. Attorney Bill Killian said officials were treating the attacks as an “act of domestic terrorism.”
The first shooting happened around 10:45 a.m. local time; the attacks were over within a half-hour.
Berke said five people died in all, including the gunman. A police officer was shot in the ankle, and others were wounded, he said.
U.S. officials told CBS News correspondent David Martin that four U.S. Marines were among the dead.
A Marine recruiter was treated at a hospital for a gunshot wound to the leg, the Marine Corps said on its Facebook page.
“Lives have been lost from some faithful people who have been serving our country, and I think I join all Tennesseans in being both sickened and saddened by this,” Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said.
The shootings began at a recruiting center on Old Lee Highway in Chattanooga where five branches of the military all have adjoining offices. A gunshot rang out around 10:30 or 10:45 a.m., said Sgt. 1st Class Robert Dodge, 36, the center leader for U.S. Army recruiting at the center.
“Shortly after that, just a few seconds, the shooter began shooting more rounds. We realized it was an actual shooting,” he said.
He and his colleagues then got on the ground and barricaded themselves in a safe place. Dodge estimated there were 30 to 50 shots fired.
He did not see the shooter or a vehicle. The Army recruiting office was not damaged, but doors and glass were damaged at the neighboring Air Force, Navy and Marine offices, he said.
After the shooting, the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement that it was “enhancing the security posture at certain federal facilities, out of an abundance of caution.”
Law enforcement officials told recruiters that the shooter was in a car, stopped in front of the facility, shot at the building and drove off, said Brian Lepley, a spokesman with the U.S. Army Recruiting Command in Fort Knox, Kentucky.
One witness told CBS affiliate WDEF that a man who was in a silver Mustang convertible was “just unloading a large gun on the Naval recruiting office.”
Witnesses said there was no time to react to shots fired from a car.
“We got to the window to see what was going on. We saw the silver convertible Mustang, and he was just unloading some type of large rifle,” said witness Erica Wright.
“It was one shot, and then it was just endless shots unloading,” said witness Laneesha Lewis.
Keith Wheatley was there, and encountered one of the victims.
“TVs, walls bullet holes in them. And there was what I thought was a Marine sitting on the sidewalk, injured in the leg,” said Wheatley, a property manager.
Within minutes of that attack, the shooter then opened fire at the Navy Operational Support Center and Marine Corps Reserve Center Chattanooga, about seven miles away. Reinhold said all of the dead were killed there, CBS News reported.
He removed a portable barrier with his car and sprayed bullets, sources told CBS News.
The center sits between the highway and a pathway that runs through Tennessee RiverPark, a popular park at a bend in the Tennessee River northeast of downtown Chattanooga. It’s in a light industrial area that includes a Coca-Cola bottling plant.
The two entrances to the fenced facility have unmanned gates and concrete barriers that require approaching cars to slow down to drive around them.
In the wake of the attack, people visiting a makeshift memorial tried to make sense of the tragedy.
“The message is simple — why would you hurt your own protectors?” said veteran Mathew Spurgeon.
In a statement, Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren addressed security measures at recruiting facilities around the country:
“We have our recruiting centers set up in places easily accessible to the public. For example, a strip mall. So security there is not what you’d see at a Ft. Bragg, a Norfolk Naval Air Station or at Quantico. So this is something we have to face. Security is not as extensive as it would be at a major installation. This is because we have to be in contact with the American public. We’re continuing to look into this incident, working very closely with both federal and local law enforcement agencies to determine exactly what happened and if we need to make any adjustments.”
Meanwhile, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch says she’s directing the FBI to take the lead on a “national security” investigation into the Chattanooga attacks.
In a statement Thursday, she said the two shootings at military sites in Chattanooga represented a “heinous attack.”
Gunman Abdulazeez is a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
University spokesman Mike Andrews said 24-year-old Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez graduated in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. The Tennessee Valley Authority confirmed that he also was a student intern a few years ago at the authority, a federally owned utility that operates power plants and dams across the South.
Hussnain Javid is a 21-year-old senior at the university. Javid said Abdulazeez studied electrical engineering at the same college and that they both graduated from Red Bank High School in Chattanooga several years apart. Javid said Abdulazeez was on the high school’s wrestling team and was a popular student.
Javid said Abdulazeez was “very outgoing” and that he was well known.
Hours after the shootings, two women were arrested at what is believed to be Abdulazeez’s house.
The motive for the rampage remained unclear late Thursday, but the FBI was investigating it as terrorism, sources said.
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