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Guns for Guard Authorized After Tennessee Attacks


Sophia Ensley, left, comforts Barbie Branum by a makeshift memorial at the entrance to the Naval Operational Support Center and Marine Reserve Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee, July 18, 2015.

Sophia Ensley, left, comforts Barbie Branum by a makeshift memorial at the entrance to the Naval Operational Support Center and Marine Reserve Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee, July 18, 2015.

Governors in at least six U.S. states have authorized the arming of personnel at National Guard facilities following Thursday's deadly attacks in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

The governors Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas issued the orders as security at recruiting centers comes under increasing scrutiny in the wake of the shootings.

A photograph of the victims is seen among the memorial setup in front of the Armed Forces Career Center/National Guard Recruitment Office in Chattanooga, Tennessee, July 18, 2015.

A photograph of the victims is seen among the memorial setup in front of the Armed Forces Career Center/National Guard Recruitment Office in Chattanooga, Tennessee, July 18, 2015.

Florida Governor Rick Scott also relocated National Guard recruiters from storefront locations to armories in his state.

On Friday, General Ray Odierno, the U.S. Army chief of staff, said the Army was reviewing security at military recruiting centers.

Death toll rises

On Saturday, the sailor who was wounded at a military support center in Chattanooga died, raising the death toll in the attacks to five.

Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith, 26, a logistics specialist, was married and had three young daughters.

The four Marines killed in the Chattanooga rampage were medal winners and veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Marine Corps said Friday.

  • Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan of Hampden, Massachusetts, was deployed twice during the Iraq War and had received two Purple Hearts.
  • Staff Sgt. David Wyatt of Burke, North Carolina, served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and currently lived in Hixson, Tennessee, outside Chattanooga. Hixson was also the home of shooter Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez.
  • Sgt. Carson Holmquist of Polk, Wisconsin, had been deployed to Afghanistan.
  • Lance Cpl. Squire K. "Skip" Wells of Cobb County, Georgia, was the youngest victim at 21 and had been a Marine for only a little more than a year.

Attacker's background

Authorities said Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, 24, unleashed a barrage of gunfire Thursday at the recruiting center in Chattanooga, then drove several miles to a Navy and Marine reserve center, where he shot and killed the four Marines and fatally wounded the sailor.

FILE - This April 2015 booking photo released by the Hamilton County, Tenn., sheriff's office shows a man identified as Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, who had been detained for a driving offense.

FILE - This April 2015 booking photo released by the Hamilton County, Tenn., sheriff's office shows a man identified as Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, who had been detained for a driving offense.

Abdulazeez then was shot to death by police who had tracked him from the first shooting.​

Born in Kuwait, Abdulazeez was a naturalized U.S. citizen. He was a high school wrestler with a degree in engineering from the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga.

The family of the gunman issued a statement late Saturday expressing their remorse over his actions.

"There are no words expressing our shock, horror and grief," the statement read. "The person who committed this horrible crime was not the son we knew and loved. For many years, our son suffered from depression. It grieves us beyond belief to know that his pain found its expression in this heinous act of violence."

Investigators have painted a picture of a heavily armed, bearded man launching attacks on two military sites. Those who knew him say that doesn't square with the ordinary upbringing they saw.

Neighbors say he was friendly. And just days before the shootings, Abdulazeez was seen dribbling a soccer ball in his yard, and he told two longtime friends he was excited and upbeat about his new job at a company that designs and makes wire and cable products.

"Everything seemed fine. He was normal. He was telling me work was going great," said one of the friends, Ahmed Saleen Islam, 26, who knew Abdulazeez through the Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga and saw him at the mosque two or three nights before the attacks.

"We are so shocked and angry," Islam said. "We wish he would have come to us."

The SITE Intelligence group reported that Abdulazeez wrote a blog and on Monday said that "life is short and bitter." He added, according to SITE, that Muslims should not miss "the opportunity to submit to Allah."

Last April, local police stopped Abdulazeez for erratic driving and for speeding, according to court documents. He was charged with driving under the influence.

Trips to Jordan

According to intelligence sources cited in U.S. media, Abdulazeez spent seven months in Jordan last year.

Before the Jordan visit in 2014, he had reportedly visited the country four other times.

Investigators are trying to determine whether he made contact with any extremist groups while he was there.

At a press conference in Chattanooga on Friday, Special Agent in Charge Ed Reinhold of the Federal Bureau of Investigation said the bureau was exploring all the travel done by Abdulazeez.

"We have asked our intelligence partners throughout the world to provide us with any information they may have" regarding his travel and activities, he said.

Reinhold said it was "premature to speculate" about why Abdulazeez attacked the military facilities. He added that the FBI had not yet determined whether the shootout was an act of terrorism but said it was being investigated as terrorism, which allows for a higher level of scrutiny.

Reinhold said that Abdulazeez had at least two long guns and one handgun in his possession. "Some weapons may have been purchased legally," he said. "Some may not have been."

Memorial service

More than 1,000 people attended an interfaith memorial service Friday evening in Chattanooga to mourn for those killed Thursday.

Held at Olivet Baptist Church, the program began with the crowd giving a standing ovation as a speaker repeatedly said, "We are Chattanooga strong!"

Members of the city's Islamic community sat in pews among the crowd as Christian pastors prayed for healing and peace and a rabbi read Scripture.

Governor Bill Haslam quoted the Old Testament and said he prayed that Chattanooga "would be a city that answers hate with love."

Pakistani-born Dr. Mohsin Ali, a Muslim psychiatrist at the service, said he and others in Chattanooga's Muslim community were mourning the loss of the servicemen.

People from different faiths pray during an interfaith vigil for the victims of the Tennessee shooting, at Olivet Baptist church in Chattanooga, Tennessee, July 17, 2015.

People from different faiths pray during an interfaith vigil for the victims of the Tennessee shooting, at Olivet Baptist church in Chattanooga, Tennessee, July 17, 2015.

Ali told mourners the Muslim community was appalled by the actions of Abdulazeez. Referring to Abdulazeez as "the murderer," Ali called the shooting "cowardly and cruel."

He also asked all Muslims in attendance who "pledge your allegiance to this city and this country, to this community," to "stand up and be recognized."

Dozens of Muslims then stood, many wiping tears from their eyes as the hometown crowd cheered and applauded them.

The tragedy led the Islamic Center of Greater Chattanooga to cancel events celebrating the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

VOA's Carla Babb contributed to this report from the Pentagon; Smita Nordwall and Molly McKitterick contributed from Washington. Some material for this report came from AP.

WATCH: Related video report by Sharon Behn

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    Sharon Behn

    Sharon Behn is a foreign correspondent working out of Voice of America’s headquarters in Washington D.C  Her current beat focuses on political, security and humanitarian developments in Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Follow Sharon on Twitter and on Facebook.

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