Officials said during a news conference that gunman had numerous weapons, and the police chief, Fred Fletcher, said that the Marines had been “brutally and brazenly attacked.”
Several other people, including a police officer, were injured in the episode that began at about 10:45 a.m. at a recruiting center on Lee Highway in and ended about 30 minutes later at the facility on Amnicola Highway, where all of the deaths occurred. Photographs of the Amnicola facility showed the windows riddled with bullet holes.
The United States attorney Bill Killian said that federal investigators would take the lead on the case, which he initially called an “act of domestic terrorism” before backing away, saying that the investigation would determine how the crime should be labeled.
The mayor of Chattanooga, Andy Berke, said a number of others had been wounded in the episode, including at least one police officer.
In a statement, the White House said, “The president has been briefed by his national security staff on the Chattanooga shooting, and will continue to get updates as warranted.”
The episode unnerved one of Tennessee’s largest cities. The Chattanooga State Community College posted an alert on its website that urged people on its main campus to remain inside and to close doors. Lee University, which is near Chattanooga, temporarily ordered a lockdown, the university said.
Bradley Square Mall, in the nearby suburb of Cleveland, also said it had initiated a lockdown, but the mall’s management said that local media reports of gunfire there were inaccurate. “There have been no shots fired at Bradley Square Mall,” the mall’s Facebook page said. It called the lockdown “a safety precaution.”
Dalya Qualls, the deputy communications director for the Tennessee Department of Public Safety, said the Tennessee Highway Patrol was assisting with the incident but did not provide further information.