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Chattanooga Shooter Mohammad Abdulazeez Had History of Drug Abuse, Family Says

A troubled profile that includes drug abuse emerged in Tennessee, as relatives and people close to the man accused of murdering five service members began piecing together possible motives.
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A troubled profile that includes drug abuse and a history of depression emerged this weekend in Tennessee, as relatives and people close to the man accused of murdering five service members there began piecing together what may have motivated the killings.

On Sunday, an unnamed family spokesman told the Associated Press that 24-year-old Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez traveled to Jordan last year to help him escape the bad influences that appeared to be dominating his life.

That trip came after a failed effort by relatives several years ago to have Abdulazeez admitted to an in-patient drug and alcohol program, and after a DUI arrest in Chattanooga three months ago, said the family spokesman, who the AP said spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid unwanted publicity.

Abdulazeez told police after an April 20th arrest that he had been sniffing powdered caffeine and smoking marijuana, and the spokesman told the AP that he used prescription muscle relaxers for back problems and medication to help him sleep for a night-time manufacturing job.

On Saturday, Abdulazeez’s family said in a statement that he suffered from depression “for many years.”

“They do not know of anything else to explain” the alleged killings, the spokesman told the Associated Press, adding, “He was medicated like many children are. Through high school and college he did a better job sometimes than others staying with it.”

Court documents from 2009 divorce proceedings involving Abdulazeez’s parents suggest he may have also been beaten by his father.

Related: Chattanooga Shooter Abdulazeez Had Depression, Says Family in 'Shock'

The proceedings were preliminary, and Abdulazeez’s father, Youssuf Saed, was never charged with a crime. But Abdulazeez’s mother accused her husband of beating her and their children.

Bassam Issa, president of the Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga, said he knew nothing of Abdulazeez's problems, despite knowing his father well through the mosque. But, he added, that is not surprising. Drinking alcohol and using drugs is strictly forbidden in the Islamic faith.

"In our culture, if a son or daughter is having those sorts of problems, they keep it a secret because of the shame," Issa said. "As a parent, you always want to be able to say your child is making you proud, not that they are struggling."

Authorities have not yet determined a motive, and Abdul Ofoli, a college professor who thought of Abdulazeez as amiable and “brilliant,” according to the AP, saw Abdulazeez just a few days before the shooting and said he seemed fine.

"I just saw the same friendly guy as before," said Ofoli, who teaches electrical engineering at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.