Chattanooga shooting victims to receive Purple Hearts

Four U.S. Marines and one sailor died as a result of an attack on a military recruiting center and another U.S. military site in Chattanooga, Tennessee, July 16, 2015.

The Tennessean, WGCL, WBZ

The victims of a July shooting at two military facilities in Chattanooga, Tennessee, will be awarded Purple Hearts, now that the government has ruled the attacks were inspired by a foreign terrorist group.

Four Marines and a Navy sailor were killed and two others wounded when Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24 opened fire on two military facilities in Chattanooga in July 2015. U.S. Attorney Bill Killian initially government was treating the investigation as an act of terrorism, but later backed away from that language.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus said Wednesday that after an extensive investigation, the FBI and Naval Criminal Investigation Services (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."

The military distinction will be awarded to 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, the five killed in the attacks. Sgt. DeMonte Cheeley, the Marine recruiter who survived the attack but was wounded, will also receive a Purple Heart.

"Although the Purple Heart can never possibly replace this brave Sailor and these brave Marines, it is my hope that as their families and the entire Department of the Navy team continue to mourn their loss, these awards provide some small measure of solace. Their heroism and service to our nation will be remembered always," Mabus said.

The announcement might have been sparked by FBI Director James Comey, who included the shooting in a list of recent terror attacks when he spoke with reporters after a speech Wednesday.

"We have concluded that the Chattanooga killer was inspired by a foreign terrorist organization's propaganda," Comey said. "There is competing foreign terrorist poison out there, but to my mind there is no doubt that the Chattanooga killer was inspired and motivated by a foreign terrorist organization propaganda."

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.