Chattanooga Shooting Declared Terrorist-Inspired, Purple Hearts Awarded

Determination Made The Attack Was Inspired By Foreign Terrorist Group

December 16, 2015, 5:29 PM

— -- The Navy will posthumously award Purple Hearts to the Sailor and four Marines killed in the Chattanooga mass shooting in July after both the FBI and Naval Criminal Investigative Service determined the attack was inspired by a foreign terror organization.

Another Marine injured in the attack will also receive the Purple Heart.

A lone gunman was responsible for the fatalities at the Navy Operational Support Center in Chattanooga as well as another attack at a military recruiting station.

Since then, the FBI and the NCIS have been investigating whether the shooting by Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez was an act of terrorism. Abdulazeez was killed in a shootout with law enforcement officers responding to the shootings at the Naval Center.

"On July 16th of this year, Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, Staff Sgt. David Wyatt, Sgt. Carson A. Holmquist, Lance Cpl. Squire D. "Skip" Wells, and Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith were killed and Sgt. DeMonte Cheeley was injured during a tragic and senseless attack in Chattanooga, Tennessee," said Navy Secretary Ray Mabus in a statement.

"Following an extensive investigation, the FBI and NCIS have determined that this attack was inspired by a foreign terrorist group, the final criteria required for the awarding of the Purple Heart to this Sailor and these Marines."

On Wednesday, FBI Director James Comey said the attacks were "inspired and motivated by foreign terrorist propaganda," according to the Associated Press.

Mabus' statement did not provide information as to which terror group had inspired Abdulazeez to carry out his attack, though it was believed it was ISIS.

Language in the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act broadened the definition of a stateside attack by “a foreign terrorist organization".

Purple Hearts could be awarded if it could be determined that prior to the attack the perpetrator may have had contacts with a foreign terrorist organization and “if the attack was inspired or motivated by the foreign terrorist organization.”

Changes to existing law were motivated by earlier determinations by the Army that the dozens of victims of the 2009 Fort Hood attack were not eligible to receive the award because the shootings were determined to have been been an incident of workplace violence.

Earlier this year the new law enabled the Army to award Purple Hearts to the 13 people killed and 32 injured in the shooting carried out by Maj. Nidal Hassan, an Army psychiatrist.

In September, the Air Force awarded the Purple Heart to Airman Spencer Stone who along with two of his friends had foiled a terror attack on a train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris. Stone was awarded the medal under a different eligibility requirement that authorizes the medal for military service members injured in foreign terror attacks overseas.

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