Friends and neighbors mourned Saturday the Georgia sailor who died from injuries sustained during this week’s shooting at a military support center in Chattanooga, calling him a kind-hearted, brave man who loved his family and country.
Dozens of U.S. flags and patriotic red, white and blue balloons blew in the hot July sun Saturday in the small community of Rossville, where Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith lived with his wife and three daughters. Smith, 26, a reservist serving on active duty in Chattanooga, died early Saturday morning, two days after a shooting there killed four Marines and injured him and two others.
To commemorate Smith, neighbor Derrick Crawley placed 50 small flags around the edge of his lawn.
“Randall’s my … ,” he said Saturday, stopping to compose himself. “He’s my friend, my neighbor.”
A sign at the entrance to the neighborhood where Smith and his family lived said: “Thank you for your service. Sorry for your loss. You will be remembered.”
Authorities say Kuwait-born Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, 24, of Hixson, Tenn., opened fire at a strip-mall recruiting center in Chattanooga on Thursday, then drove several miles away to the Navy and Marine reserve center where he shot and killed four Marines and wounded Smith. Abdulazeez was shot to death by police.
Rossville is in Walker County, a north Georgia community that borders Tennessee and is only about five miles from Chattanooga. Multiple neighbors in Smith’s neighborhood there described him as a devout family man, who would wave as he road bikes down the street with his three little girls, all under the age of 6, in tow.
Smith, originally from Paulding, Ohio, and his wife Angie, who have been married since 2011, had moved into the neighborhood less than a year ago. He lived in Ohio until he entered the service.
Smith’s wife and family declined to speak to reporters on Saturday. Numerous neighbors could be seen going up to Smith’s home offering comfort food and support.
Neighbor Charles Tant Jr. said the family has been attending his church, First Baptist Church of Fort Oglethorpe. He said the Sunday school class will be taking the family a “love offering” composed of money collections.
“To show our love for them,” he said.
Lance Cpl. Skip Wells, 21, one of the Marines killed in Thursday’s shooting, was also from Georgia. He graduated from Marietta’s Sprayberry High School in 2012 and initially attended Georgia Southern University. Wells studied history through fall 2013 before joining the military.
Those who knew Wells are mourning the Marine and say he was a selfless person who “always put others before himself.”
Wells’ friends and family plan to hold a public memorial for him Tuesday at Sprayberry High School’s stadium. The gathering is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.
Funeral arrangements are still pending for both Wells and Smith.
Gov. Nathan Deal tweeted his condolences Saturday following news of Smith’s death, saying he would order flags to fly half-staff in both mens’ honor on the day of their funerals.
—The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.