Chattanooga gunman 'had mental problems since teens'
Published 20/07/2015 | 02:17
A Kuwait-born man who shot and killed five service members in Tennessee suffered from depression since his early teenage years and fought drug and alcohol abuse, his family has said.
A family representative, who did not want to be identified to avoid unwanted publicity, said relatives of 24-year-old Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez believed those personal struggles were at the heart of last week's killings at a two military sites in Chattanooga.
"They do not know of anything else to explain it," said the spokesman.
Abdulazeez spent several months in Jordan last year under a mutual agreement with his parents to help him get away from drugs, alcohol and a group of friends who relatives considered a bad influence, the spokesman said
Meanwhile counter-terrorism investigators continue to interview Abdulazeez's acquaintances and delve into his visit to Jordan, looking for clues to who or what might have influenced him and set off the bloodshed.
FBI spokesman Jason Pack would not comment on whether investigators were pursuing mental health records for Abdulazeez, but FBI Special Agent Ed Reinhold has said agents are looking into all aspects of his life and had not yet turned up any connections to Islamic terrorist groups.
Abdulazeez opened fire at a military recruiting office and a US Navy-Marine operations centre a few miles apart on Thursday, killing four marines. A sailor wounded in the attack died on Saturday.
Abdulazeez, who was shot and killed by police after a hail of gunfire, was first treated by a child psychiatrist for depression when he was 12 or 13, said the family representative.
"He was medicated like many children are. Through high school and college he did a better job sometimes than others staying with it," said the spokesman.
Several years ago, relatives tried to have Abdulazeez admitted to an in-patient programme for drug and alcohol abuse but a health insurer refused to approve the expense, said the representative.
Recently, Abdulazeez had begun working a night shift at a manufacturing plant and was taking medication to help with problems sleeping in the daytime, the representative said. He also had a prescription for muscle relaxants because of a back problem.
It is unknown what substances were in his system at the time of the shootings, but toxicology tests should provide an answer.
After returning from his time overseas, Abdulazeez was arrested on a charge of driving under the influence in the pre-dawn hours on April 20. A police report said he told a officer he had also been smoking marijuana with friends.
The report said Abdulazeez, who had white powder on his nose when he was stopped, told the officer he also had sniffed powdered caffeine.
The arrest was "important" because Abdulazeez was deeply embarrassed and seemed to sink further into depression following the episode, the family representative said, adding that some close relatives learned of the charge only days before the shooting.