Gunnery Sgt. Camden Meyer saved his daughter and a fellow marine during the July terror shooting in Chattanooga, Tennessee, according to an investigative officer’s report released to the Marine Corps Times.
On July 16, Meyer reported to his post at Recruiting Substation Chattanooga at 7:30 a.m. Meyer, according to the report, talked with his Marines about the day and then left the office to get his car repaired.
Meyer returned around 9 a.m. with his daughter. He agreed to watch her for a couple of hours while his wife finished some work, according to the report. One Marine recruiter left to get his hair trimmed. Two recruits showed up for a routine strength test.
Lance Cpl. Christopher Gilliam and Sgt. DeMonte Cheeley sat on a couch in the front of the office visiting with the recruits before their test. Gilliam, on the job for only two months, spotted some suspicious activity in a Ford Mustang outside the office.
Ten minutes later, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez fired between 30 and 45 rounds from a rented Mustang convertible before driving off. He was caught with an assault rifle, a shotgun, and a pistol.
“The only thing I can remember seeing was two arms holding a weapon,” Gilliam told the investigating officer.
“Run!” Gilliam shouted as Abdulazeez fired at the storefront. Cheeley and the recruits ran after him. The four of them escaped through a back door and ran to a nearby warehouse. Once there, Cheeley noticed blood running down his leg thinking he had cut it on broken glass. Later, he realized one of the bullets tore through his thigh.
In the back of the office, Meyer was seated with his daughter and Sgt. Winfield Thompson when a bullet came through the wall. Meyer grabbed his daughter and ordered Thompson to get down. According to the report, Thompson was prepared to run, which would have made him an easy target.
“I hit the floor,” Meyer said, “and immediately began to flatten my daughter’s body as flat as it could go and shielding it with my body from the fire. I yelled at [Thompson] to stay down until the break in fire… I know the shooter would have to switch weapons, change clips or reload.”
Some time passed without a shot before the three ran from Meyer’s office.
“We got up, I grabbed my daughter in my arms and began to run out the back door,” Meyer told the investigator.
The three fled to a hill a down the street while Meyer carried his daughter over his shoulder.
Everyone was out of the office within a minute, the report states.
Meyer left his daughter with Thompson and returned to the office to make sure no one was left inside. Cheeley, hidden behind a dumpster in the back of the building, said he saw Abdulazeez drive away.
“I called my [wife] and told her to come get [our daughter] now,” Meyer told the investigating officer.
Abdulazeez then moved to a Navy facility across town where he killed five service members.
The attack launched a nationwide debate and the military is now reviewing its security for small or remote facilities. According to the report, no one in the office was armed.
The Purple Heart will be awarded to Gilliam and the five service members killed at Chattanooga’s naval recruiting office.