He played Wiffle ball in a suburban neighborhood of swim meets and gently sloping lawns. He was a young man who was polite, who sometimes drove too fast, who was arrested on a drunken-driving charge, who kept a blog.
And on Thursday, the authorities say that Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, killed four Marines and wounded three other people, including a Marine Corps recruiter and a police officer. Mr. Abdulazeez himself died in what the United States attorney here called a potential act of “domestic terrorism” in the heart of the Bible Belt.
According to the F.B.I., he was a Kuwaiti-born Jordanian who became a naturalized United States citizen. According to The Chattanooga Times Free Press, he was a graduate of Red Bank High School, whose quotation on his graduation yearbook page was: “My name causes national security alerts. What does yours do?”
His neighbors here in Hixson, the suburb of Chattanooga where he grew up, said that he seemed to have been an all-American boy, handsome and polite, normally in a T-shirt and jeans.
For more than a decade, Mr. Abdulazeez, his parents and his sisters had made their home in a subdivision called Colonial Shores, just across the Tennessee River from Chattanooga. It is a movie-set vision of American suburbia, almost surreally well-tended, with handsome middle-class homes of a late-1970s vintage. Some are columned or neocolonial; others are cladded in midcentury stone.
Dean McDaniel, 59, who lived two houses down from the Abdulazeez family on Colonial Way Circle, said he had known Mr. Abdulazeez for the last dozen years or so, when the family moved into the neighborhood. Mr. McDaniel said that two of Mr. Abdulazeez’s sisters used to babysit Mr. McDaniel’s children when they were younger. Mr. Abdulazeez would sometimes stop by to visit his sisters while they were there.
He remembered Mr. Abdulazeez and his siblings as well-behaved, and polite. You could tell, he said, that “they had strict parents. They had a structured lifestyle.”
The girls and the mother wore head scarves, he said, while the son dressed in typical American garb: T-shirts, jeans, shorts. The parents spoke with an accent, but the children, less so. Mr. McDaniel knew they were Muslim, although he never asked where they were from.
He remembered the young Mr. Abdulazeez seemingly fitting in well with the other children in the neighborhood. Mr. McDaniel sometimes saw him playing whiffle ball and other sports outside with the other neighbors’ children.
He said Mr. Abdulazeez grew up big, over six feet tall, muscular and athletically built. The last time Mr. McDaniel remembers seeing him was about two or three years ago, he said.
Chet Blalock, the owner of the Blalock International Mixed Martial Arts Academy in Chattanooga, said Mr. Abdulazeez wrestled in high school. He said some of his students had trained with Mr. Abdulazeez, though he did not know him well himself.
“He was a tough guy, he wouldn’t tap out, he elected to pass out,” said Mr. Blalock.
A résumé that he posted on the Internet shows that he received an engineering degree from the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga in 2012 and interned with the Tennessee Valley Authority, learning to manage electrical power systems.
Another neighbor, W. Keith Clingan III, said that about six or eight months ago Mr. Abdulazeez came roaring up the hill in a Toyota Camry with no hubcaps, blowing through a yield sign in front of Mr. Clingan’s home.
Mr. Clingan, 56, an owner of an auto body and glass company, asked the young man to stop. It was the second time that he saw him failing to heed the yield sign. “I told him to slow down and I said, ‘Do you have a problem with that?’ He said, ‘No sir, I’ll slow down.’ ”
After that, Mr. Clingan said, Mr. Abdulazeez would always give a friendly wave as he drove by.
Mr. Abdulazeez maintained a blog where he posted about Islam, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks international terrorist groups. A July 13 posts stated that “life is short and bitter” and that Muslims should not let “the opportunity to submit to Allah … pass you by.”
SOURCE: RICHARD FAUSSET
The New York Times