Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, the man identified as the Chattanooga gunman who killed four Marines in a deadly attack in Tennessee on Thursday, could not be described as being dangerous if his former classmates are to be believed.
JUST IN: Chattanooga, TN shooting suspect identified as Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, law enforcement sources tell @CBSNews.— CBSN (@CBSNLive) July 16, 2015
In an interview with the Telegraph, Grey Raymond, a 28-year-old man who worked with Abdulazeez on a high school television program, divulged the major facets of Youssef’s personality in more detail.
“I remember him being very creative. He was a very light-minded kind of individual. All his videos were always very unique and entertaining. He was a really calm, smart and cool person who joked around. Like me, he wasn’t very popular so we always kind of got along. He seemed like a really normal guy.”
Kagan Wagner, another of Muhammad’s classmates, said of him, “He was friendly, funny, kind. I never would have thought it would be him. They were your average Chattanooga family.”
According to a report by NBC News, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez was a naturalized American citizen who was born in Kuwait and moved to the United States as a 5-year-old in 1996. Youssef attended the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga and graduated in 2012 with a degree in engineering.
During high school, he started for the varsity wrestling team and even went on to develop a passionate liking for the sport, finally culminating in his brief stint with MMA (mixed martial arts). His coach, Scott Shrader, spoke of Muhammad as a passionate young man, describing him as “an all-American kid”. This video, reportedly showing Youssef in a fight, surfaced on YouTube hours after the shooting.
But despite Abdulazeez’s simpler ambitions, there were deeper fissures within the surface, arising mostly from his insecurity of living as a Muslim in the U.S. In his school’s yearbook, Abdulazeez captioned his picture with the following message.
“My name causes national security alerts. What does yours do?”
It says something about the man that despite his pro-American tendencies, there was something deeply troubling about him.
Ever since Youssef visited the Middle East a couple of years ago, his behavior tended to be more erratic, and he gradually started spending more time on his own. His two cryptic blog updates, the second posted as soon as July 13, are a testament to his “hypothetical” awakening.
The Daily Beast quoted an extract from Youssef’s blog, which read as follows.
“I would imagine that any sane person would devote their time to mastering the information on the study guide and stay patient with their studies, only giving time for the other things around to keep themselves focused on passing the exam. They would do this because they know and have been told that they will be rewarded with pleasures that they have never seen… [Life] is a test designed to separate the inhabitants of Paradise from the inhabitants of Hellfire.”
In another blog post, Muhammad wrote about the moment of submitting to Allah was passing him by.
“Brothers and sisters don’t be fooled by your desires, this life is short and bitter and the opportunity to submit to Allah may pass you by. Take his word as your light and code and do not let other prisoners, whether they are so called “Scholars” or even your family members, divert you from the truth. If you make the intention to follow Allah’s way 100 per cent and put your desires to the side, Allah will guide you to what is right.”
While these blog posts fail to give us a definite picture of Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, they go some way in explaining the motivations behind his actions. Whether, as was reported earlier by the Inquisitr, Youssef’s understanding of Islam drew from his relations with militant groups, or whether it was his personal interpretation, cannot be said with any certainty as of this moment. But what can be said is that Muhammad Youssef’s transformation from a typical “American” kid to a lethal gunman who killed four Marines speaks of a deeper problem — one we will do well to address sooner rather than later.
[Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images]