He was, by all accounts, an ordinary guy. He grew up in a middle-class neighborhood outside Chattanooga, Tenn., played whiffle ball with his pals as a kid, excelled on the Red Bank High School wrestling team, graduated from the University of Tennessee with an electrical engineering degree.

Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, was smart, charming, funny. Under his senior yearbook photo from 2008, in which he was clean-shaven and wearing a tuxedo, he quipped: “My name causes national security alerts. What does yours do?” He had friends, was not a loner, enjoyed mixed martial arts, hit the gym four or five times a week, and didn’t take religion too seriously.

But Abdulazeez had a dark side, a secret side, one few knew about. He was befriended at his local gym by a former Chattanooga police officer, one who would spout hardline Islamic views and threatened those who disparaged the faith, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

He was increasingly struggling to balance his Muslim beliefs with his Americanized life.

Each night he was working out at the gym, Abdulazeez would unroll his prayer rug at 6 p.m. in the privacy of the gym’s office, face toward Mecca and pray to Allah. Born in Kuwait and a Jordanian citizen, Abdulazeez was a naturalized U.S. citizen, but his father was old world.

One time, after an MMA fight, his “furious” father, a soil engineering specialist for the city, reamed him out for participating in the sport, the paper said. He traveled back “home,” to Jordan, this year for seven months and was increasingly struggling to balance his Muslim beliefs with his Americanized life. When he returned to Chattanooga, he went less often to the gym, eventually disappearing altogether.

Muhammad Abdulazeez2

Instead, he began to fill his time with an Islam-focused blog that examined the surrender Muslims must make to Islam, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks international terrorist groups. Over the last few months, he regularly attended Friday prayer at the Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga, where his family went.

He also got into drugs. He was arrested in April for driving under the influence at 2 a.m. The arresting officer wrote that Abdulazeez  smelled of alcohol and marijuana and had a “white powdery substance” around his nose, according to the arrest report.

Four days ago, Abdulazeez published a series of posts on social media saying that “life is short and bitter” and that Muslims should not let “the opportunity to submit to allah… pass you by,” according to SITE. He also referred to the sacrifices by the companions of the prophet Mohammed, saying they “fought Jihad for the sake of Allah,” according to the group.

“Every one of them had to make sacrifices in their lives and some even left all their wealth to make hijrah (migration) to Medina,” Abdulazeez wrote.

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Then on Thursday, Abdulazeez became the newest face of domestic terrorism. Sporting an AK-47 and carrying loads of ammunition, he opened fire on an armed services recruiting center in Chattanooga, then drove to the nearby naval reserve facility and fired on Marines, killing four and wounding three.

Throughout his radicalization, though, the U.S. government never heard of Abdulazeez. He was never on the radar as a possible Islamic threat, even though his father, who has the same name, had been under investigation in the past for giving money to an organization with possible ties to a foreign terrorist organization.

President Obama on Thursday declared that Abdulazeez acted alone. Only time will tell if that is true.

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