U.S. Vice President Joe Biden referred to the man who fatally shot four Marines and a sailor last month in Chattanooga, Tennessee, as a “perverted jihadist.” Speaking at a memorial service for the fallen military members, Biden seemed to depart from the FBI’s stance that it was unclear whether suspect Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez was radicalized, the Associated Press reported.
“These perverse ideologues, warped theocrats, they may be able to inspire a single lone wolf to commit a savage act, but they can never, never threaten who we are,” Biden said Saturday. “When this perverted jihadist struck, everyone responded.”
Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire July 16 at a military recruitment center in Chattanooga before driving to a nearby reserve center. There, he shot the five men and was ultimately killed by police. The FBI announced shortly thereafter that Abdulazeez was a “homegrown violent extremist.”
The victims were identified as Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith, Sgt. Carson Holmquist, Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, Staff Sgt. David Wyatt and Lance Cpt. Squire "Skip" Wells. It was around them that Biden centered his speech Saturday.
He often drew on his recent experience with the death of his son, Beau. At one point, Biden said he didn’t know any of the Chattanooga victims personally, but “they were my son and so many other sons I know.” He listed off their qualities: confident, determined, trustworthy, loyal.
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam also attended the event, the Tennesseean reported. But Biden’s message was the one that went viral. The vice president told the crowd that “perverted cowards around the world” should know not to underestimate the U.S.
“America never yields, never bends, never cowers, never stands down, [but] endures, responds and always overcomes,” Biden said.