The FBI identified 24-year-old Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez as the shooter who opened fire in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on Thursday, killing four Marines and wounding several others. Abdulazeez was off the radar of U.S. counterterrorism officials before Thursday’s shooting. Details are still a bit sketchy, but here’s what we know—or think we know—about Abdulazeez so far.
Abdulazeez’s childhood in suburban Chattanooga, where he lived with his parents and at least two sisters, appears to have been normal by American standards. He wore jeans and T-shirts and was polite, friends and neighbors recall.
Abdulazeez’s exact origins are still unclear, but one federal official told the New York Times he was born in Kuwait but was of Jordanian descent. His father was investigated “several years ago” for giving money to a group with possible ties to terrorism, the Times reports. “At one point, a law enforcement official said that the father was on a terrorist watch list and was questioned while on a trip abroad, but that he was eventually removed from the list.”
A naturalized U.S. citizen, Abdulazeez went to high school and college in Chattanooga, graduating with a degree in electrical engineering in 2012. “In high school, Abdulazeez was a sociable, smart student with a proclivity for science and math and a sharp sense of humor, said Terry Jones, an electrical engineer who now lives in Knoxville, Tenn., and said he was one of Abdulazeez's closest friends when they were teenagers,” wrote the Los Angeles Times. “Abdulazeez was deeply religious, observing prayers five times a day and fasting during Ramadan, according to Jones, who never knew him to drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes or do drugs.”
Abdulazeez’s friends and classmates paint a picture of a young man who was sociable, likeable, and generally involved in school life, including wrestling for the school team. Beneath what appears to be his senior-year yearbook page Abdulazeez included the quote: “My name causes national security alerts. What does yours do?”
Less is known about Abdulazeez’s life following college, and his mindset leading up to Thursday’s killing spree. “An online résumé indicates that Abdulazeez had recently worked as a ‘procurement engineer’ with Global Trade Express,” according to the Washington Post. In April, Abdulazeez was arrested for UI, but, according to public records, that was his only run-in with the law.
Abdulazeez kept a blog, on which SITE Intelligence Group, an organization that tracks terrorist groups online activity, found two Islam-related blog posts. “In one Internet posting earlier this month, Abdulazeez had written ‘This life is a test of faith,’ [according to SITE] which described the statement as an ‘aspiration for paradise,’ ” the Post notes.
Recent photographs of Abdulazeez posted on family Facebook pages show he had begun to grow a beard, a marked contrast to his clean-cut image previously. Despite the change in appearance, the Post reports, “friends who said they had been in recent contact with Abdulazeez said they saw no indication that he was violent.”