CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (CBS Atlanta/AP) — A gunman unleashed a barrage of gunfire at two military facilities Thursday in Tennessee, sending troops scrambling for safety in an Army recruiting office, officials said.
A US official says five were killed, including 4 Marines and a sole gunman. U.S. Attorney Bill Killian called the killings an “act of domestic terrorism.”
Two law enforcement officials told CBS News that the shooting suspect was identified as 24-year-old Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez. He was believed to have been born in Kuwait, and it was unclear whether he was a U.S. or Kuwaiti citizen. An official says the suspect is from Hixson, Tennessee, which is just a few miles across the river from Chattanooga.
President Barack Obama is promising a thorough and prompt investigation into the attack. Obama says it appears the attack was committed by a lone gunman, but that a full investigation is ongoing.
The president is calling the shooting a “heartbreaking circumstance.” He says he’s been briefed about the incident and has been in touch with the Defense Department to make sure military facilities are vigilant.
Obama spoke in the Oval Office just minutes after returning to Washington from a trip to Oklahoma. He was joined his counterterrorism and homeland security adviser and the FBI director.
At least two others were injured during the attacks, including a police officer who was shot in the ankle, Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke said.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said “lives have been lost from some faithful people who are serving our country.”
Chattanooga police said in a tweet Thursday afternoon that the active shooter situation was over.
Mayor Andy Berke said at a news conference that there’s “an officer down” at a military reserve center. He did not release any other details. Berke called it a “very terrible situation.”
The U.S. Navy said in a tweet that there was a shooting at a Navy recruiting building on Amnicola Highway in Chattanooga.
A facility 7 miles away on Old Lee Highway also was attacked. Brian Lepley, a spokesman with the U.S. Army Recruiting Command in Fort Knox, Kentucky, said his recruiters there were told by law enforcement that the shooter was in a car, stopped in front of the facility, shot at the building and drove off.
The Army recruiters at the facility told Lepley they were not hurt and had evacuated; Lepley said he had no information about recruiters for the other branches at the facility.
Sgt. 1st Class Robert Dodge, 36, is the center leader for U.S. Army recruiting at that facility. He said four Army personnel were in the office at the time. He said the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and National Guard all have their own offices right next to each other. Around 10:30 or 10:45 a.m., Dodge and the others heard a gunshot, “which kind of sparked our attention,” he said.
“Shortly after that, just a few seconds, the shooter began shooting more rounds. We realized it was an actual shooting,” he said. They 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.
President Barack Obama has been briefed by his national security team on the shooting involving two military sites in Tennessee. White House spokesman Eric Schultz said the president will continue getting updates from his staff as needed.
The Navy Operational Support Center and Marine Corps Reserve Center Chattanooga 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 and Binswanger Glass.
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 just 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.”
They’ve seen dozens of emergency vehicles rush by: bomb teams, SWAT teams, and state, local and federal authorities.
The Armed Forces Career Center on Lee Highway sits in a short strip between a Cricket Wireless and an Italian restaurant with no apparent additional security.
Near the other shooting location on Lee Highway, Nicholas Donohue heard a blast of gunshots while working at Desktop Solutions. But he had music playing and wasn’t quite sure what the noise had been. He turned off the music and seconds later, a second blast thundered. He took shelter in a back room.
“Even though it knew it was most likely gunfire I heard, you also don’t want to believe it’s happening in the moment,” he said. “Since I didn’t see anything, I couldn’t be sure.”
By the time he emerged, police were cordoning off the area.