Nearly 24 hours after a deadly shooting spree that began at one military recruitment center in Chattanooga, Tenn., and ended at another, many questions remain unanswered.
As authorities search for more information on Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, the 24-year-old allegedly responsible for the rampage that ended in his death and the deaths of four others, details about the victims are slowly coming to light.
Sgt. Thomas Sullivan was one of the Marines killed Thursday, his family told MassLive.
A native of Springfield, Mass., 40-year-old Sullivan was a veteran who earned a Purple Heart after two tours in Iraq. Sullivan’s two siblings, Dianne and Joe, gathered at the home of their parents, Jerry and Betty, in suburban Hampden, Mass., after receiving official notice from the military of his death.
Sullivan’s battalion confirmed the sad news on Facebook.
“For those who have not heard yet, one of the four Marines murdered today was one of our own — Thomas Sullivan,” read the message alongside a photo of Sullivan posted on the India Battery 3rd Battalion 12th Marines Facebook page. “Please keep his family in your thoughts and prayers. Semper Fidelis Zimminite.”
Josh Parnell, a Chicago-based friend who said he served with Sullivan in Japan, told the Oak Lawn, Ill., Patch news website that Sullivan joined the Marines in 1997.
“There’s no Marine you would want that was better in combat than him,” Parnell said of Sullivan, who he said survived the 2005 Battle of Abu Ghraib and would have been able to retire in a few years. “He’d been shot at so many times over the years and then for this to happen at home in the United States.”
Late Friday morning, Georgia news outlets were reporting that Squire Wells, better known by the nickname “Skip,” was another one of the Marines killed in Chattanooga Thursday. A 2012 graduate of Sprayberry High School in Marietta, Ga., Wells went to Georgia Southern University before enlisting, the Associated Press reported, adding to his family’s long military lineage. Lance Cpl. Wells had been texting with his girlfriend, Caroline Dove, about her plans to come visit him in Chattanooga, when the gunman opened fire Thursday. The conversation had gone from a loving exchange to “ACTIVE SHOOTER” so quickly that Dove thought Wells must have been kidding. As news of the shooting became widespread, Dove tried to get in touch with her boyfriend, who’d been silent for hours. She didn’t learn that he was one of the victims until the next day.
The Salina Journal, a local Kansas paper, also reported Friday that U.S. Navy logistics specialist Randall Smith was among those injured in the shooting. The 26-year-old had been hit three times and was rushed to surgery in Chattanooga, according to his mother’s cousin Tania Daugherty.
“They said his wounds are very extensive, more surgeries to come. They said they hit his liver and colon,” Daugherty wrote of Smith’s injuries in a text message to the Salina Journal. “They were not sure he will make it through the night. He’s still fighting hard.”
What motivated Abdulazeez to open fire on Chattanooga’s Marine Corps Reserve Center and Navy Operational Support Center remains unclear. The U.S. National Counterterrorism Center has reported no known connection between the 24-year-old and any terrorist groups.
“We are looking at every possible avenue, whether it was terrorism, whether it’s domestic, international, or whether it was a simple criminal act,” FBI agent Ed Reinhold told the Associated Press on Friday. “Obviously, we’re still at the beginning of this investigation. We will explore any possibility, and that includes whether anyone else was involved.”
Neighbors at a vigil Friday morning identified David Wyatt as the third Marine killed in the shooting, according to the Tennessean. A photo posted by Wyatt’s wife, Lorri, on Facebook Thursday has elicited comments expressing sympathy and support for the Marine’s family.
According to the Pentagon, Wyatt had been serving in the U.S. Marines since 2004, a tenure that included three deployments, two of them to Iraq. Growing up in Russellville, Ark., Wyatt was a Boy Scout. His scoutmaster, Tony Ward, told the Associated Press that he remembered the young Wyatt as energetic and fun-loving, characteristics that carried into adulthood. Ward described Staff Sgt. Wyatt, who was a husband and a father of young children, as a “hard charger.”
“He’s the kind of man that this country needs more of,” Ward said.
Carson Holmquist was named as the fourth victim by the Burnett County Sentinel, the local paper of Holmquist’s hometown of Grantsburg, Wis. Like the others, reactions to the news of Holmquist’s death can be seen on his Facebook page.
“When he became a Marine he was very proud of that,” Grantsburg High School principal Josh Watt told the Associated Press Friday. Watt, who had coached the Marine sergeant in high school football, recalled that Holmquist returned to his alma mater to show off his formal uniform as soon as he’d completed boot camp.
“It’s a very tough day in Grantsburg,” Watt said.
This story has been updated since it was originally published.