LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A man with "political and religious motives" killed a soldier just out of basic training and wounded another Monday in a targeted attack on a military recruiting center, police said. The shootings were not believed to be part of a broader scheme.
A police report based on an interview with the suspect says Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, 23, told police he observed two soldiers in uniform, drove up to the recruiting center and started shooting.
"He saw them standing there and drove up and shot them," Lt. Terry Hastings told The Associated Press. "That's what he said."
The two soldiers who were shot had completed basic training within the past two weeks and were not regular recruiters, said Lt. Col. Thomas F. Artis of the Oklahoma City Recruiting Battalion, which oversees the Little Rock office.
Both men were from nearby hometowns and volunteered to work at the recruiting center to attract other locals to the military. "They can show the example, 'Here's where I was, and here is where I am,'" Artis said.
Police arrested Muhammad, 23, along an interstate moments after the shootings at the Army-Navy Career Center in a shopping center in west Little Rock.
Muhammad had converted to Islam at some point in his life and interviews with police show he "probably had political and religious motives for the attack," the police chief said.
Muhammad, previously known as Carlos Bledsoe, was not part of a larger group nor was his attack part of a larger conspiracy, Thomas said.
"We believe that it's associated with his disagreement over the military operations," the police chief said.
Thomas said Muhammad would be charged with first-degree murder, plus 15 counts of committing a terroristic act. Thomas said those counts result from the gunfire occurring near other people.
The accused shooter's father, Melvin Bledsoe of Memphis, Tenn., hung up on a reporter who called about his son's arrest Monday night.
Witnesses told police that a man inside a black vehicle pulled up outside the recruiting center and opened fire about 10:30 a.m. Long fell onto the sidewalk outside the center while Ezeagwula was able to crawl toward its door.
Police said an assault rifle and other weapons were found in the vehicle when Muhammad was arrested.
Jim Richardson, the manager at a drug store around the corner from the Army-Navy center, said people at the store didn't realize anything was amiss until hearing sirens outside.
"Nobody heard any gunshots," Richardson said.
Steven Johnson, an 18-year-old recruit, was on his way to take a qualifying test when he found police cars at the center. By early afternoon, Johnson was waiting patiently outside the yellow police tape.
"I'm going to check and see if they're all right," he said.