CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — About 10:45 a.m. Thursday, a silver Ford Mustang convertible turned into a small strip mall off Lee Highway here.
The car’s top was down, and the driver, Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez, was carrying at least two long guns and a handgun.
He never left the vehicle.
Instead, Abdulazeez pulled the vehicle parallel to an Armed Forces Career Center, threw it in reverse and began shooting out the passenger side as he accelerated backward.
The recruitment center is a glass-fronted office embossed with the different insignia of the services. It’s sandwiched between a cellphone store and an Italian restaurant.
Abdulazeez shot more than 25 rounds in an initial salvo, spattering four floor-to-ceiling windows with loosely grouped shots.
He then jolted to a stop, probably to use another weapon or reload.
The second group of shots — about 30 — is centered on the door to the recruitment center.
What he apparently didn’t know was that the military had installed bulletproof glass in recent years as a security measure, according to a law enforcement official who described the sequence of events on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the news media.
The bullet strikes have since been marked by law enforcement, and they span the length of the military center, aside from a few untouched windows in the middle of the two bullet concentrations.
With the barrage of shots, the Chattanooga police radio started to “go crazy,” the official said.
But the shooting was over almost as quickly as it began, and Abdulazeez was gone, headed up Route 153 North to his second target, a naval reserve center seven miles away.
He arrived about 11 a.m.
Abdulazeez drove the Mustang through a green chain-link fence that provides remote entry to the grounds of the Navy Operational Support Center Chattanooga. There was no guard at the fence.
Abdulazeez got out of the car and entered the main building — commonly called the drill center — on foot.
The police were in pursuit.
They exchanged gunfire, Chattanooga Police Chief Fred Fletcher said at a Friday news conference.
“It was clear that this gunman had every intent to encounter and to murder police officers if he needed to,” Fletcher said.
At one point, the gunman shot one of the Chattanooga police officers, and others dragged the injured officer out of the fray while they and others continued to return fire.
“But he was a moving target,” said Edward Reinhold, the special agent in charge of the FBI office in Knoxville.
Inside the building, Abdulazeez shot and killed four Marines and wounded another service member.
He was forced out of the building and into the facility’s motor pool by advancing SWAT officers.
Reinhold said “all indications” suggest that the gunman was fatally shot by police, saying no signs of self-inflicted wounds have been found, although Abdulazeez’s body is being examined to make sure. An autopsy has not been completed, he said.
“This matter continues to be investigated as an act of terrorism,” he said.
But Reinhold said that federal officials were not confirming a suggestion made earlier in the day by the House Homeland Security Committee’s chairman, Michael McCaul (R-Tex.). In a news conference at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida, McCaul said the shooting appeared to be inspired by the Islamic State.
“At this time, we have no indication he was inspired by or directed by anyone other than himself,” Reinhold said.
Andrew Wilmouth, a Marine who has trained at the naval reserve center, said the facility was very lightly protected.
“That’s the thing about reserve units — they have terrible force protection,” he said.
Mark Berman in Washington contributed to this report.