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Sources: Navy officer, Marine fought to take out Chattanooga gunman

July 21, 2015 (Photo Credit: Navy)

A Navy officer and a Marine fired their sidearms hoping to kill or subdue the gunman who murdered five service members last week in Chattanooga, Tennessee, according to multiple military officials familiar with internal reporting on the tragedy.

It remains unclear whether either hit Muhammad Abdulazeez, who was shot and killed on July 16 after he gunned down four Marines and a sailor at the Navy Operational Support Center in Chattanooga. It's also unclear why they were armed, as it is against Defense Department policy for anyone other than military police or law enforcement to carry weapons on federal property.

A report distributed among senior Navy leaders during the shooting's aftermath said Lt. Cmdr. Timothy White, the support center's commanding officer, used his personal firearm to engage Abdulazeez, Navy Times confirmed with four separate sources. A Navy official also confirmed a Washington Post report indicating one of the slain Marines may have been carrying a 9mm Glock and possibly returned fire on the gunman.

Mohammad Youssduf Adbulazeez
Mohammad Youssduf Adbulazeez
Photo Credit: Hamilton County Sheriffs Office via AP

A source close to the investigation said details of the rampage's last few minutes remain unclear, but no information has emerged to contradict the Navy's internal findings.

Authorities will not know whether White or the Marine hit Abdulazeez until an autopsy and ballistics assessment are performed.

Several attempts to contact White were unsuccessful.

The shootings in Chattanooga unfolded on the morning of July 16 when, the FBI said, Abdulazeez pumped dozens of rounds into a strip mall recruiting station before driving across town to the Navy support center. No one was killed inside the recruiting station.

Police responding to the first shooting passed the Navy support center en route, and some were diverted to the scene of the second attack, according to a source with knowledge of the investigation.

According to FBI Special Agent in Charge Ed Reinhold, who spoke at a press conference July 22, Abdulazeez plowed his rented car through the gates, and with Chattanooga Police chasing close behind, the gunman got out of the car and stormed into the building. Abdulazeez wore a vest with extra ammunition and carried an assault rifle and a handgun. An additional gun was found in his vehicle.

A service member inside the building saw Abdulazeez approaching and fired at hit, Reinhold said. The investigator's description of this incident matches account of White's actions that day, as relayed by officials close to the investigation to Navy Times. The gunman shot back and then proceeded inside.

Once inside, he fatally wounded a sailor and "continued to shoot those he encountered," Reinhold said.

As police followed the gunshots, he then walked out the back door into a gated motor pool area, where troops tried to scramble over a fence to safety, and it was here that the four Marines were killed.

When the shooting first started, troops inside the building went room to room to rush their colleagues to safety, said Maj. Gen. Paul W. Brier, commanding general of the 4th Marine Division. Then, some rushed back into the fight.

Two guns belonging to service members were recovered at the scene, he said; shots were fired from at least one. It's unclear if the gunman was hit by one of those weapons, Reinhold said. The military will investigate whether the service members were authorized to have those weapons, he said.

NCIS head spokesperson Maryann Cummings would not say if this investigation would be led by her organization or the command, but said more information would be made available soon.

Killed in the attack were Marine Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, Lance Cpl. Squire K. Wells, Staff Sgt. David Wyatt and Sgt. Carson Holmquist. Navy Logistics Specialist 2nd Class Randall Smith died on July 18 from wounds sustained during the shooting.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Chattanooga Shooting
Law enforcement work the scene of a shooting July 16 at the Navy Operational Support Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Photo Credit: WTVF via AP)
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