Navy officer confirms he shot at Chattanooga gunman with personal weapon

Lt. Cmdr. Tim White


By SHELLY BRADBURY | (Chattanooga, Tenn.) Times Free Press | Published: July 31, 2015

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (Tribune News Service) — When Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez attacked the U.S. Naval and Marine Reserve Center on July 16 with a handgun and an assault rifle, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Tim White opened fire.

White used his personal weapon to try to fend off Abdulazeez, he confirmed to the (Chattanooga, Tenn.) Times Free Press on Thursday. Abdulazeez killed four Marines and a Navy specialist in the brazen daytime attack.

White, who has served in the Navy for 13 years, moved to Chattanooga in April with his wife and six kids — and a seventh on the way. As the commanding officer at the center, White is limited in what details he can release because of the ongoing investigation into the attack.

But his wife, Franicia White, said she supports her husband's actions that day.

"He values human life enough to protect his sailors and others," she said. "I am honored to be his wife and stand by him 100 percent."

The July 16 attack sparked a national debate about whether military personnel should be armed in military buildings on United States soil.

Currently, Department of Defense regulations prohibit most service members from being armed on U.S. soil, including most personnel at reserves and recruiting centers like the ones Abdulazeez targeted in Chattanooga. Only law enforcement or service members who are acting as military police are allowed to carry weapons on such properties.

On Thursday, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter directed the military branches to review security policies — including adding armed personnel — in the wake of the Chattanooga attacks, The Associated Press reported.

In a news conference days after the shooting, FBI Special Agent Ed Reinhold said the FBI recovered two personal weapons from the scene but declined to say whether the service members who had those weapons were authorized to carry them.

On Wednesday, a Florida resident named White in a petition that asks President Barack Obama to honor the men who fired their personal weapons at Abdulazeez. The petition, which had more than 700 signatures Thursday, asks Obama to give the men who fired medals of bravery for saving lives during the attack.

"What he did there was a very brave thing," said Michael Seewald, a friend of White's who signed the petition. "It would be so easy for somebody to just try to get away and escape, but he tried to defend the people there. I'm not sure that was in the protocol for what they were supposed to be doing, but I think he felt he had a responsibility to protect his people."

Filed on the White House website, the petition must reach at least 100,000 signatures by Aug. 28 in order to get a response from the White House.

And although two weeks have passed since the attack, it's still unclear whether White's shots actually wounded Abdulazeez. Days after the shooting, Reinhold confirmed that one service member spotted Abdulazeez as he approached the building and opened fire on the 24-year-old Hixson man, but he could not say whether those bullets reached their target. The FBI has not released the identities of the service members who fired.

The Associated Press and McClatchy contributed to this report.

(c) 2015 the Chattanooga Times/Free Press. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.