A fifth service member died on Saturday after the tragic attacks on a Navy Operational Support center and a military recruiting station in Chattanooga this week. According to his family, U.S. Navy Petty Officer Randall Smith died from injuries two days after attempting to evacuate those around him to safety when alleged gunman, Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez, opened fire on the support center this past Thursday. Smith's step-grandmother, Darlene Proxmire, said that it seemed the service member would recover from his injuries before his tragic death.
The New York Daily News reported that there was an initial wave of optimism following Smith's surgery earlier in the week.
"All is hope here!" Smith's father-in-law Carl Thomas wrote on his Facebook page Friday, before Smith was taken once again to the intensive care unit and hooked up to a ventilator. Despite early signs to the positive, the Paulding, Ohio native passed away at 2:17 a.m., surrounded by his wife and family.
"When he came out of surgery [for his three gunshot wounds], and he woke up, he acknowledged his wife [and] gave her a thumbs up," said Proxmire in a phone interview with The New York Daily News. "You see stuff like that on TV and you think that could not happen to our family, but it did, and it was a shock."
Smith's grandmother, Linda Wallace, told CNN that the 26-year old, a reservist serving on active duty as a logistics specialist, had suffered gunshot wounds to his back, stomach, and arms, which in turn caused extensive damage to his liver, stomach, and colon during Thursday's shooting. Wallace stated that Smith had seen the alleged gunman and quickly attempted to warn others in the building of the impending attack.
According to Proxmire, the sailor and father of three had joined the Navy after losing out on a basketball scholarship due to a shoulder injury. But he "loved his country" and his role in the military, Proxmire added.
"He loved the Navy," said Proxmire, in a comment to CBS Radio News on Saturday. "As a matter of fact, just before this happened, he joined up again, and then this happened."
A senior defense official recounted the bravery of both Smith and his four fellow service members on the day of the shooting, explaining to reporters that they had gone into immediate "combat mode," telling those around them to drop to the floor and make their way out the back door. According to the official, all seven people evacuated that day survived as a result of the servicemen.
Four additional service members died as a result of Thursday's shooting: Lance Cpl. Skip Wells of Cobb, Georgia; Sgt. Carson Holmquist of Grantsburg, Wisconsin; Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan of Hampden, Massachusetts; and Staff Sgt. David Wyatt of Burke, North Carolina.
"[Randall] loved his family, his three little girls so much," said Proxmire in a comment to The New York Daily News. She added, "I'm very proud of him — everything about him. How could you not be?"
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