Four Marines were shot and killed Thursday morning at the Navy and Marine Corps Reserve Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee, during an hour-long attack at two military facilities that also left a soldier, a Marine and a police officer wounded, officials said.
The lone gunman was identified as 24-year-old Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez. He was killed by local police, according to a senior Defense Department official. Abdulazeez was born in Kuwait and he lives in nearby Hixson, Tennessee.
U.S. Attorney Bill Killian called the shooting an "act of domestic terrorism." However, FBI Special Agent in Charge Ed Reinhold said investigators were still searching for a motive. The senior Defense Department official, who asked not to be identified, said the federal government did not have any reports or warnings that Chattanooga might be a target for a terrorist attack.
"Today was a nightmare for the city of Chattanooga," Mayor Andy Berke said in a press conference Thursday afternoon. "As a city, we will respond to this with every available resource that we have."
The shooting started at 10:30 a.m. at the military recruiting center on Old Lee Highway Road, said Sgt. 1st Class Robert Dodge, 36, the leader for Army recruiting at the center. Abdulazeez fired about 25-30 shots at the recruiting center. After hearing gunshots, those in the center hit the ground and sealed the doors, Dodge said.
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.
Within minutes of that attack, Abdulazeez then opened fire at the Navy Operational Support Center and Marine Corps Reserve Center Chattanooga, about seven miles away. The four Marines were killed there, Reinhold said.
Marine Corps officials confirmed the deaths of the four Marines, but said they would wait to alert family members before releasing their identities.
"The Marine Corps can confirm four Marine fatalities today at the Navy and Marine Corps Reserve Center in Chattanooga, TN. Names of these Marines will be released upon notification of the next of kin," Maj. Paul Greenberg, a Marine Corps spokesman, said in a statement.
Greenberg confirmed a Marine was wounded in the leg at the recruiting office. He was treated at a local hospital and has been released. The Army has not issued an update on the status of the soldier.
The police officer, who was shot in the ankle, is being treated at a local hospital, officials said.
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus called Thursday's attack against military personnel on home soil "insidious and unfathomable."
"Today, the Navy and Marine Corps team collectively mourn the loss of four heroes," he said. "The tragedy in Chattanooga is both devastating and senseless. On behalf of the entire Department of the Navy family, I offer my deepest condolences to the families of those killed and wounded in service to our nation during this incident."
The reserve center sits between the highway and a pathway that runs through Tennessee River Park, a popular area 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.
Marilyn Hutcheson, who works at Binswanger Glass across the street, said she heard a barrage of gunfire around 11 a.m.
"I couldn't even begin to tell you how many," she said. "It was rapid fire, like pow pow pow pow pow, so quickly. The next thing I knew, there were police cars coming from every direction."
She ran inside, where she remained locked down with other employees and a customer. The gunfire continued with occasional bursts she estimated for 20 minutes.
"We're apprehensive," Hutcheson said. "Not knowing what transpired, if it was a grievance or terroristic related, we just don't know."
-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.
-- Michael Hoffman can be reached at Mike.Hoffman@military.com