CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Vice President Joe Biden on Saturday called the slaying of four Marines and a sailor at a Chattanooga reserve center the act of a "perverted jihadist."
Biden's comments were made at a memorial for the five servicemen killed in a shooting rampage by Kuwait-born Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez.
"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. "When this perverted jihadist struck, everyone responded."
The vice president's strong words contrast with the official comments of investigators who have not yet been able to determine a motive. The FBI has said it has not been able to determine whether the 24-year-old Abdulazeez was "radicalized" before the July 16 attacks and has been considering him a homegrown violent extremist.
Speaking before Biden, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said officials may never know "what combination of disturbed mind, violent extremism and hateful ideology" was behind the shooting, but vowed that the United States would present a strong response.
Those killed were Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith and four Marines: Staff Sgt. David Wyatt, Sgt. Carson Holm-quist, Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan and Lance Cpl. Squire "Skip" Wells.
Abdulazeez began the July 16 rampage by opening fire on a military recruiting center before driving to a reserve center, crashing through the gates and killing the five servicemen. Abdulazeez died in a shootout with police.
The vice president drew applause for concluding with a defiant message for anyone who would target the United States: "We have a message for those perverted cowards around the world: America never yields, never bends, never cowers, never stands down — (but) endures, responds, and always overcomes. For we are Americans, and never, never underestimate us.
"It's always been a bad, bad bet to do that."