Four Military Personnel Killed in 'Act of Terrorism' in Tennessee
Four military personnel have been killed in attacks on two facilities in Tennessee.
Chattanooga mayor Andy Berke said the gunman was killed and that three others, including a Chattanooga police officer, were injured.
The attack was being treated as an act of terrorism, FBI special agent Ed Reinhold said, and links to international terrorism had not been ruled out.
“We will treat this as a terrorism investigation until it can be determined that it was not,” he said.
Berke described the attack as “incomprehensible” and “a nightmare for the city of Chattanooga”.
Authorities would not indicate whether the gunman was killed by law enforcement, or by a self-inflicted wound.
The suspected gunman was believed to have lived in the Chattanooga area, the FBI said. Authorities would not say if he had a background in the armed services.
The shooting began around 10.45am at the Armed Forces Career Center on Lee Highway in Chattanooga. Gina Mule, a witness at the Lee Highway location, told CNN that she saw a white male in a silver convertible Ford Mustang with a gun.
“He had a big, big high-powered rifle. He was opening fire on the Air Force, Marines and Navy offices,” she said.
Mule said she saw the man reload his rifle and then drive away.
Law enforcement officials told recruiters they were attacked by a shooter in a car. The shooter stopped in front of the recruiting facility, shot at the building and drove off, said Brian Lepley, a spokesman with the US army recruiting command in Fort Knox, Kentucky.
Images of a door to the center in a strip mall showed more than a dozen bullet holes in the glass.
The army recruiters at the facility told Lepley they were not hurt and had been evacuated; Lepley said he had no information about recruiters for the other branches at the facility.
An active duty army recruiter said he was at his office when someone opened fire and he heard 30 to 50 shots.
“We heard one single shot, which kind of sparked our attention. Shortly after that, just a few seconds, the shooter began shooting more rounds. We realized it was an actual shooting, so we then initiated our active shooter drill: getting down low to the ground, moving to a safe location. And we waited until everything seemed to be clear.” He said he did not see the gunman or a vehicle.
Shortly after, there were reports of a shooting at a naval reserve center, believed to be the Navy Operational Support Center and Marine Corps Reserve Center, about six miles away on Amnicola Highway. All of the victims were killed at this location, FBI special agent Reinhold said.
The Department of Defense confirmed Thursday afternoon that four service members had been killed and one wounded during the two shootings.
Victims were taken to Erlanger Hospital, which had been placed on lockdown. A shopping mall, two nearby colleges and the Tennessee governor’s mansion were also placed on lockdown in the immediate aftermath of the incident.
A temporary flight restriction was placed over Chattanooga while police searched for the suspect. The Department of Homeland Security reportedly activated its Chattanooga Strike Team. The investigation is now being led by the FBI, in conjunction with the ATF, Department of Homeland Security, Tennessee Department of Homeland Security, and the Chattanooga police department.
Police set up a command post near one of the sites.
Barack Obama was briefed by his national security team on the shooting while on a trip to Oklahoma to speak about criminal justice reform at a federal prison.
White House spokesman Eric Schultz said the president would continue getting updates from his staff as needed.
The Associated Press contributed to this report