Paulding County, Ohio
July 18, 2015
|From The Times Free Press timesfreepress.com 07/19/15
Friends mourn U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith, shot to death in Chattanooga shooting
July 19th, 2015by Tyler Jett
For Scott Meyer, the news reached him through a series of text messages.
The first one came around 3 p.m. Thursday, when he finished his shift caring for hogs at a local farm in Paulding, Ohio. "Call me," a friend said. That's how Meyer learned that 26-year-old Randall Smith, a childhood friend and a logistics specialist in the Navy, was in critical condition, shot multiple times by a stranger in Chattanooga.
Then, after two days of praying and stewing in disgust over the shooter, Meyer plugged his dead phone into a charger Saturday morning. The screen lit up, and a string of messages poured through. Smith was dead.
"I was just numb," Meyer said Saturday afternoon. "It's still kind of sinking in."
The Navy announced Smith's death at 2:47 a.m. Saturday. In Smith's hometown of Paulding, a village of about 3,700 people in the northwest corner of the state, the news spread. You couldn't see anything other than Smith on Facebook news feeds, some of his friends said.
Outside the local Veterans of Foreign Wars building, a sign read, "RIP Randall Smith." Behind it, five flags flew at half-staff.
The state's governor, John Kasich, called for prayer. In Georgia, where Smith had been living, Gov. Nathan Deal said flags will fly at half-staff on the day of his funeral. And in Tennessee, Gov. Bill Haslam said, "we as a state mourn another life lost from this senseless act."
In Chattanooga, a large crowd formed Saturday at the Lee Highway military recruitment office, where the gunman had first opened fire. People laid flowers and other mementos. American flags flapped around the yellow caution tape surrounding the perimeter of the strip mall. On their knees, parents helped children lay wreathes, patriotic pinwheels and toy soldiers.
Five white crosses bearing the names of the dead — Sgt. Carson Holmquist, Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, Lance Cpl. Skip Wells, Staff Sgt. David Wyatt and, now, Smith — stood planted side by side.
Danielle Pope had driven alone to the site from her home in Rossville, compelled to pay her respects. Crying, she knelt to pray and removed her shoes.
"I just felt I was on hallowed ground," she said.
Two days earlier, authorities say 24-year-old Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez, of Hixson, opened fire outside the recruiting center and then the U.S. Naval and Marine Reserve Center on Amnicola Highway. He killed five people and wounded two others before police shot him dead.
On Saturday, the investigation into the attack continued as FBI agents from three offices processed the crime scenes. The agency has received more than 200 leads so far.
Smith had joined the Navy in 2010, Department of Defense officials said, and had been assigned to Chattanooga last August.
On his street in Rossville, Ga., Smith's neighbors said he came home from work at 4:30 p.m. every day. He rode bicycles with his three daughters. His next-door neighbor, who declined to give her name, said Smith shared a picnic on the Riverwalk with the girls and his wife Thursday morning, just hours before the attack.
On Saturday, Smith's friends from home shared memories about him. He loved baseball, like many members of his family. He pitched and played middle infield for Paulding High School. His dad was an assistant coach. After high school, Smith played at Defiance College, a Division III baseball team, the type of squad filled with men who know they won't make it to the pros but want to keep playing anyway.
Meyer said two of Smith's grandparents died of lung cancer, and he wanted friends to help fund research to kill the disease. He often punctuated Facebook posts with "Cancer Sucks," even when he was just congratulating recent Paulding High School graduates.
He also shared his faith often. Jason Thomas, pastor of First Baptist Church of Fort Oglethorpe, said Smith and his family had been attending for a little less than two years.
This October, Smith planned to host Meyer and some other high school friends. They were going to drive to Nashville and watch the Tennessee Titans.
Corbin Vance, who was two years behind him at Paulding High, said Smith also planned to come home for Labor Day weekend. Vance first learned about the mass killing in Chattanooga through a Fox News alert on his phone Thursday morning. Later that afternoon, Vance's brother called to tell him the shooter hit Smith.
"Being from a small town, you don't truly understand these major happenings until it affects one of your own," he said Saturday. "Then it's like, 'Damn.'"
Vance doesn't yet know how to process his former teammate's death.
Meyer, meanwhile, thought about text messages. Not the ones he received this week, the ones that changed his town. Instead, he thought about the old ones, the ones Smith sent long before he was gone.
The Navy petty officer had a goofy side. At any moment, for no reason, Smith used to text Meyer song lyrics. He quoted "Lips of an Angel," "You're Beautiful" and "Hit Me Baby One More Time."
On another occasion, though, Smith texted the words to his favorite song.
"Sweet Caroline," he wrote.
Good times never seemed so good.
Staff writers Kate Belz and Joy Lukachick Smith contributed to this report.
|From The Navy Times navytimes.com 07/21/15:
Slain petty officer remembered as husband, baseball player
Mark D. Faram, Staff writer 1:08 p.m. EDT July 21, 2015
The shocking attack on military facilities in Chattanooga, Tennessee, claimed another life early Saturday morning: a 24-year old petty officer and father who loved baseball and had just re-enlisted on shore duty after three years on a big deck amphib.
Logistics Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Randall Smith joined the Navy on November 8, 2010, and left for recruit training at Great Lakes, Illinois, the same day.
Smith died at 2 a.m. Saturday, succumbing to extensive damage to his liver and colon, said his grandmother Darlene Proxmire. He had undergone multiple surgeries since the Thursday shooting.
"He was just an awesome young man who loved his wife and three girls," Proxmire told Navy Times Saturday.
But Smith, she said, also had great affection for the Navy and serving his country.
"He enjoyed the Navy and serving in the Navy," she said. "Just here in the past week or two he had re-upped for another tour."
Proxmire said that he'd graduated from high school in Paulding, Ohio, in 2008 and that his first love was playing baseball.
"He was good enough to get a college scholarship to college in Defiance, Ohio, but he hurt his shoulder and couldn't play," she recalled.
In a statement released by Defiance College July 18, the school confirmed that Smith had attended the school for a short time beginning in the fall and had participated in autumn baseball exercises.
"Defiance College extends its deepest condolences to the family of Navy Petty Officer Smith," the release said. "His family and all of the families of victims of the senseless attack on our military in Chattanooga are in our thoughts and prayers."
Navy Times managed to reach Derek Woodley, the college's head baseball coach who said the school does recruit players for their team, but are forbidden by National Collegiate Athletic Association rules from giving athletic scholarships.
"I was not on the staff that recruited Randall," Woodley said. "He did participate for a limited time in the fall but did not participate in the spring — it is certainly a tragedy and do express my condolences to the family."
As Smith moved on, Proxmire said, he decided to follow in the footsteps of his paternal grandfather, Donald Smith, now deceased, who Proximire said had spent a long time in the Navy, though she couldn't recall exactly how long.
"His dad's dad was a Navy man," Proxmire said. "He really hoped that Randall would join the Navy and when baseball was no longer an option for Randall, I think he joined the Navy because of his grandpa."
Navy sources say that Smith was on active duty in what the Navy calls reserve full-time support — FTS in Navy lingo. These sailors go to sea just as any other sailor does, but when eligible for shore duty, they are assigned to Navy Reserve operational support centers around the country. They are responsible for the training and administration of Navy Reserve units.
And from his Navy records, he seems to have been off to a good start in the Navy, sources tell Navy Times.
Graduating from boot camp in January 15, 2011, Smith's first stop was logistic's specialist "A" school at the Naval Technical Training Command, Meridian, Mississippi, graduating nearly five months later on May 9.
His first and only fleet duty station was on the amphibious assault ship Wasp reporting on May 26, 2011, serving onboard for just over three years, leaving on July 25, 2014, and reporting to NOSC Chattanooga on August 15.
While Smith was on Wasp, the ship didn't deploy overseas, but instead spent much time in maintenance availabilities as well as conducting operations and participating in exercises along the east coast and in the Caribbean.
During his time onboard the ship, Wasp spent much time at sea testing the Marine Corps F-35B Joint Strike Fighter variant and was at the scene of the first landing of the aircraft on October 3, 2011.
In 2012, the ship participated in the Bold Alligator exercise which at the time was the largest amphibious exercise conducted by U.S. forces in the last decade. In May of the same year the ship participated in New York's fleet week, and a month later in Boston's Fleet Week.
Wasp returned to the New York area on October 30 to participate in disaster relief efforts after Hurricane Sandy. The ship spent much of Smith's last year in maintenance periods, receiving upgrades to allow her to better support Marine F-35B operations.
Along with being a qualified Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist, Smith is also qualified to wear the Navy Battle "E" Ribbon, The National Defense Service Medal and the Pistol Marksmanship Ribbon.
|From WREG News Channel 3 wreg.com 07/17/15
Marines killed in Chattanooga attack identified
POSTED 5:59 AM, JULY 17, 2015, BY GEORGE BROWN, KELSEY OTT AND CNN WIRE
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — The four Marines killed in a domestic terrorism attack Thursday in Chattanooga have been identified.
They are Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, Lance Cpl. Skip Wells, Staff Sgt. David Wyatt and Sgt. Carson Holmquist.
Family members and friends said Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan was shot and killed in the attack.
He was an Iraq War veteran and Purple Heart recipient.
Originally from Springfield, Massachusetts, Gunnery Sgt. Sullivan joined the Marines in 1997.
“He was our hero,” a Facebook post states, “and he will never be forgotten.”
Lance Cpl. Wells was another of those gunned down, according to friends of his family.
A 2012 graduate of Sprayberry High in the Atlanta suburb of Marietta, Georgia, he was studying history at Georgia Southern University.
He had loved being part of his high school’s ROTC program.
Many members of his family served in the military, said Garrett Reed, a close friend of Lance Cpl. Wells.
“He loved his country,” Reed said.
Staff Sgt. Wyatt, originally from Russellville, Arkansas, was also killed, according to The Tennesseean.
Fox News named Sgt. Holmquist, originally of Grantsburg, Wisconsin, as the fourth victim.
Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire at two military recruitment centers.
Shots were first fired at the Armed Forces Career Center, then the Naval Reserve support center where the Marines were hit.
|From Fox 8 Cleveland fox8.com 07/17/15
Marines mourned: Names of those killed in Chattanooga shooting are released
POSTED 10:10 AM, JULY 17, 2015, BY CNNWIRE, UPDATED AT 04:44PM, JULY 17, 2015
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — They joined the Marines to serve their country, willing to go to dangerous lands out of a sense of duty, idealism and patriotism.
Ultimately, they died in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Authorities are still trying to piece together why Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez killed four Marines at a Navy operational center in the southeastern Tennessee city, which is thousands of miles from any war zone but unfortunately not bloodshed.
The Marines killed were Carson Holmquist, David Wyatt, Skip Wells and Thomas J. Sullivan, according to multiple sources.
Terrorism is being investigated as one possibility, especially considering that a military recruiting center was also shot at, though it was not immediately known if Abdulazeez had any connection to any known terrorist group.
Nor is it known if he had any link to the four people killed or the others wounded — one a male sailor in “pretty serious condition” after surgery, according to a Pentagon official, and the other identified by a law enforcement source as responding Chattanooga police Officer Dennis Pedigo, who was shot in the ankle.
Whatever the motive, it’s clear that four families are hurting badly, as is the community at large.
“Each of these men who lost their lives had served incredibly well,” Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam told CNN on Friday morning. “We’re heartbroken.”
Thomas Sullivan: ‘He was our hero’
Massachusetts officials say one of the victims is Thomas Sullivan, a Springfield native who was a Marine Corps. gunnery sergeant. Gov. Charlie Baker posted a picture of Sullivan on Facebook and the words “terror comes home to Massachusetts,” and Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno lamented an “assassination” and “tragic loss.”
“Sgt. Sullivan dedicated his life in brave service to his country,” Sarno said, “and to see it end under such tragic circumstances is heartbreaking.”
Flags were lowered to half-staff outside City Hall, and city spokesman James Leydon said Sullivan’s family is “still trying to come to terms with it all.” So, too, are people in the community, like resident Jim Sheremeta, who said the death hit close to home.
“My heart just went down to my toes because I said, ‘My God,’ ” he said.
John Sullivan, co-owner with Thomas’ brother Joe of Nathan Bill’s Bar and Restaurant in Springfield, changed his Facebook profile picture to a split shot of his smiling brother in uniform and a black ribbon over the Marines Corps logo. The ribbon has the words “in remembrance,” and below it appears, “R.I.P. Tommy.”
The Facebook page describes the late Marine as a graduate of Cathedral High School who grew up in Springfield’s East Forest Park neighborhood and went on to become a gunnery sergeant.
“He was our hero,” one post states, “and he will never be forgotten.”
Skip Wells: ‘You couldn’t find a nicer guy’
Skip Wells was another of those gunned down, according friends of his family.
A 2012 graduate of Sprayberry High in the Atlanta suburb of Marietta, Georgia, where he was in the band, Wells went on to study history at Georgia Southern University. The school said Wells was enrolled there from 2012 through fall 2013.
Just last month, his mother, Cathy, posted touching words about the love between her and her son, to which Skip replied that he would readily carry his mother to safety “on my back … with a weapon.” Pictures posted recently to Facebook also showed mother and son on a trip to Disney World.
When asked Friday about her son’s death, Cathy Wells said, “My son died doing what he loved for the love of his country and his family.”
Many who knew him and his mother posted tributes to him on social media, like one man who said that his “heart is breaking.”
Many members of Wells’ family, including his mother, served in the military, Garrett Reed said. Wells loved being part of his high school’s ROTC, or Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, program.
“He loved his country,” said Reed, a close friend since fourth grade who considered Wells’ mother his own “second mother.”
And Wells, himself, was loved by those who knew him.
“He was a real genuine guy, he had a real caring spirit, (and was a) funny dude,” Reed said. “Just a real, real nice guy. You couldn’t find a nicer guy than him.”
CNN’s Tina Burnside, AnneClaire Stapleton, Mi Seon Lee, Bob Crowley and David Shortell contributed to this report.
|From CNN cnn.com 07/18/15:
Fifth service member dies after Chattanooga shooting
By Ed Payne and Victor Blackwell, CNN
Chattanooga, Tennessee (CNN)U.S. Navy Petty Officer Randall Smith, wounded in a shooting rampage in Tennessee, died early Saturday, according to a family member. He is the fifth American service member killed in the attack.
Darlene Proxmire, Smith's step-grandmother, said the logistics specialist was shot in the attack at the Navy Operational Support Center in Chattanooga. It was one of two military sites in the city that were targeted by a gunman Thursday.
The U.S. Navy confirmed the death, saying Smith died at 2:17 a.m.
Smith saw the shooter and warned people around him, according to family members. But he was unable to get away. Smith was shot in the liver, colon and stomach, said his grandmother, Linda Wallace.
Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez opened fire, shooting seven people, including four Marines who died that day.
The two surviving wounded are a Marine recruiter who was shot in the leg and a responding Chattanooga police officer, Dennis Pedigo, who was shot in the ankle.
A community in mourning
On Friday, hundreds in Chattanooga packed Olivet Baptist Church for a prayer vigil. There were Christians. There were Muslims. A cross-section of the Tennessee community
"I thought it was beautiful ... the community coming together," Iman Ali told CNN affiliate WTVC. "It was truly something beautiful and I wanted to be there to honor the lives of those Marines."
Korean War veteran Arch Burton talked of the collective hurt the nation was experiencing.
"We fought to preserve this great country which is America and when one is down, all are down," he said.
There was talk of healing and moving forward.
"Tonight, love and forgiveness and belief in one another was the theme, because that's what 'Chattanooga Strong' means," Mayor Andy Berke told affiliate WDEF.
The military earlier released the names of the four Marines killed Thursday -- Thomas Sullivan, a native of Hampden, Massachusetts; Squire "Skip" Wells, a native of Marietta, Georgia; David Wyatt, a native of Burke, North Carolina; and Carson Holmquist of Grantsburg, Wisconsin.
All were combat veterans, according to a senior Defense official.
When the shooting broke out, they went into combat mode, had everybody drop to the floor, and then "cleared the room" by having everyone go out the back, the official said. All seven people in the center survived, and reports indicate those Marines helped save lives.
Timeline: U.S. military recruiting center attacks, from New York to Chattanooga
Authorities have seized four guns connected with Abdulazeez, a law enforcement official said.
Abdulazeez had a handgun and two long guns in his possession when police killed him at a Navy Operational Support Center, and another rifle was seized when police searched his home, the official said.
Abdulazeez obtained at least one of his firearms from a seller via the Internet, law enforcement sources told CNN, and at least two other firearms were bought from licensed firearms dealers.
The handgun was registered in his name, the source said. Officials believe the shotgun and AK-47-style gun were legally obtained, the source said.
The 24-year-old engineering graduate wore a "load-bearing vest" that allowed him to carry extra ammunition, said Ed Reinhold, special agent in charge of the regional FBI office.
Thursday's shooting spree began at a strip mall when Abdulazeez opened fire on a military recruiting center.
Over the next half hour, the gunman, a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, drove his rental car to the Navy operational support center seven miles away, a law enforcement official said.
Police Chief Fred Fletcher told CNN that police followed and engaged Abdulazeez somewhere on the road after that, then again at the second site. He said authorities are still trying to determine whether police saw him ram the gates of the center, get into the facility and shoot and kill the four Marines.
Abdulazeez kept police at bay for some time before himself being killed.
"All indications are he was killed by fire from the Chattanooga police officers," Reinhold told reporters. "We have no evidence he was killed by self-inflicted wounds."
Looking for a motive
Authorities are trying to figure out why Abdulazeez -- an accomplished student, well-liked peer, mixed martial arts fighter and devout Muslim -- went on the killing spree.
U.S. Attorney Bill Killian said the shootings are being investigated as an "act of domestic terrorism," but he noted the incident has not yet been classified as terrorism.
Reinhold said there is nothing to connect the attacker to ISIS or other international terror groups. Abdulazeez was not on any U.S. databases of suspected terrorists.
In response to the shootings, some governors have taken steps to increase security of National Guard recruiters and military facilities in their states. States control their National Guard units, so governors can make decisions about Guard actions, whereas the president is commander in chief of the nation's military branches.
Under Florida Gov. Rick Scott's order, National Guard members at six state recruitment centers will be relocated to armories until security is improved. In addition, law enforcement agencies will be asked to conduct regular security checks and qualified Guard members will be adequately armed, according to a statement from the governor's office.
"We're going to do everything we can to make sure all of our Guardsmen are safe," Scott told CNN. "We've got to understand that we have people in our country that want to harm our military."
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's order will arm National Guard personnel at military facilities throughout the state.
"Arming the National Guard at these bases will not only serve as a deterrent to anyone wishing to do harm to our service men and women, but will enable them to protect those living and working on the base," Abbott said in a statement.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin authorized the arming of certain full-time personnel in military installations throughout the state. "It is painful enough when we lose members of our armed forces when they are sent in harm's way, but it is unfathomable that they should be vulnerable for attack in our own communities," she said in a statement.
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence issued an order to enhance security measures at all National Guard facilities across the state, including recruiting storefronts.
Bergen: History of attacks against U.S. military installations
'Something happened over there'
While Abdulazeez was a devout Muslim, he didn't appear to be radical, according to some who knew him. He was born in Kuwait but became a naturalized American citizen.
Jordanian sources said Abdulazeez had been in Jordan as recently as 2014 visiting an uncle. He had also visited Kuwait and Jordan in 2010, Kuwait's Interior Ministry said.
A longtime friend said Abdulazeez changed after spending time in the Middle East and "distanced himself" for the first few months after returning to Tennessee.
"Something happened over there," Abdulrazzak Brizada told CNN, saying, "he never became close to me like he was before he went overseas ... I'm sure he had something that happened to him overseas."
Shooter recalled as good student, 'great kid'
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