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Navy launches official investigation into Chattanooga attack

A memorial stands outside of the Armed Forces Recruiting Center Chattanooga on Aug. 13, 2015.

JUSTIN WOLPERT/U.S. NAVY

By SHELLY BRADBURY | Chattanooga Times/Free Press, Tenn. (Tribune News Service) | Published: August 29, 2015

The July 16 shooting at the U.S. Naval and Marine Reserve Center in Chattanooga could change security at similar Navy sites across the nation. The Navy is investigating everything from the site's layout to the policies that govern how personnel respond to such attacks, a Navy spokesman said Friday.

The Navy began the official investigation into the Chattanooga attack on Aug. 11, said Capt. Jack Hanzlik, Fleet Forces Command public affairs officer. The first report should be finished by the end of September, he said. The Navy's team of 20 people, led by Rear Adm. Frank Morneau, also will look at how well the Navy communicated with law enforcement and medical responders, and how survivors and victims were supported during and after the attack.

The investigation is meant to ensure Navy personnel have adequate protection, Hanzlik said.

"The recommendations from procedure, policy and regulations as well as infrastructure changes, could impact facilities Navywide," he said. "Chattanooga is not co-located on a large military base, and so, because of that uniqueness, this would have potential implications for other similar facilities."

Gunman Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez, 24, killed four U.S. Marines and mortally wounded a Navy specialist when he stormed the site off Amnicola Highway.

The attack set off a national debate about whether members of the military should be armed while on U.S. soil, especially after the site's commanding officer, Lt. Cmdr. Tim White, confirmed he used a personal firearm to shoot at Abdulazeez as the attacker ran toward the building.

Hanzlik said the Navy's investigation will consider all the facts relating to the incident, but he declined to comment specifically on the use of personal firearms.

State and national officials have already taken some steps to revise security policies in the wake of the attack. After the Navy team's first report is finished in September, it will go through several review processes, Hanzlik said.

Meanwhile, Paul Stone, a spokesman for the Armed Forces medical examiner, confirmed Friday that Abdulazeez's body has been returned to his family after it was examined at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

Stone could not say when Abdulazeez's body was released.

Investigators with the FBI have confirmed that Abdulazeez was shot dead by Chattanooga police, but have not said how many times he was shot or where he was hit.

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