Chattanooga mourned anew for four U.S. servicemen Friday as we began to learn more about the men who were killed in a shooting rampage by a heavily armed gunman who authorities now are openly investigating as a terrorist.
Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, 40, from Springfield, Mass., was in the Marines for 18 years, a combat veteran with a Purple Heart.
Lance Cpl. Squire Kimpton Paul "Skip" Wells, 21, of Marietta, Ga., was a fresh recruit with an interest in history and Civil War re-enactment who joined a cannon crew at Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield Park.
Staff Sgt. David A. Wyatt, originally of Burke, N.C., lived in Hixson with his wife and children. On Friday, his home was bedecked with an American flag and guarded by a Hamilton County Sheriff's Office deputy.
Sgt. Carson A. Holmquist originally of Polk, Wis., served two tours with Operation Enduring Freedom. His Facebook page holds heartbreaking pictures of a child holding up a sign that reads, "Welcome home, Daddy."
The attack that took these men's lives, injured Chattanooga Police officer Dennis Pedigo and two other soldiers (one still fighting for life), is tragic, though not wholly inexplicable. And as investigators seek evidence, Chattanoogans move toward soul-searching.
The senseless violence seemingly can be summed up with one word: Hate. Hate not necessarily for any personal affront, but instead for reasons all too impersonal — misunderstood religious differences, angers over past wars we never seem able to let go of. Or even simply intense self-loathing.
It seems doubtful at this point that the shooter — Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez — ever met any of his victims, nor they him. The motivation for Abdulazeez's action may instead be someone else's dogma and ideology.
Though authorities haven't been willing to say clearly that they believe there is a direct ISIS connection, they do make it quite clear that they're looking for one.
Michael McCaul, chairman of the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee, said Friday the slayings are now — officially — being investigated as a terrorism case.
McCaul said Abdulazeez's AK-47, computer, smart phone and other electronics were in Washington for forensic examination, and investigators hope to glean any possible "foreign direction" the former Red Bank High School student and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga graduate may have received to become "radicalized."
Officials already know he made a seven-month trip last year to Jordan. He was in Jordan in the last weeks of 2005, in the summer of 2008, the summer of 2010 and the spring of 2013, officials told The New York Times. Those stays ranged from two weeks to two months. Abdulazeez was Jordanian of Palestinian descent, born in Kuwait during the Iraqi invasion of 1990.
All of that is far more information than federal authorities investigating here have provided publicly to this traumatized city. FBI Special Agent in Charge Ed Reinhold, of Knoxville, instead has downplayed and muddled our own U.S. District Attorney Bill Killian's frank pronouncement Thursday that the investigation was being conducted as a case of domestic terrorism. Chattanoogans deserve better.
We know this is far from the first attacks on domestic U.S. military facilities in recent years.
In June 2009 in Little Rock, Ark., a 24-year-old recent convert to Islam fired on two soldiers at the Army Navy Career Center, killing one and injuring the other. On Nov. 5, 2009, another American citizen and practicing Muslim killed 13 and injured 32 others at Fort Hood.
In October of 2010, drive-by shootings began to puzzle authorities in northern Virginia and continued for about a year at a series of facilities including the National Museum of the Marine Corps and U.S. Marine recruiting center and a U.S. Coast Guard recruiting center. The shooter turned out to be a 22-year-old Marine reservist himself who finally was arrested at Arlington Cemetery with bomb materials in a backpack. He planned to deface graves of those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In September of 2013, a mentally ill military contractor and former Nsavy reservist, killed 12 at the Washington Navy Yard. And In April 2014, a disgruntled army specialist angry over a rejected leave killed 4, injured 14, then killed himself at Fort Hood.
Not all these cases involved terrorism as we think of terrorism. But they certainly all involved hate.
In Chattanooga, we must not let Abdulazeez's twisted hate multiply. Bassam Issa, president of the Islamic Center of Greater Chattanooga, puts it in language we can all applaud: "The shooter did not represent us, and it's that simple. As the Qur'an states, in paraphrase, "He who kills one is he who kills the whole of mankind, and he who saves one is he who saves all of mankind."