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VOL. 130 | NO. 252 | Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Deadly Shooting in Chattanooga Voted Top Story of 2015

ERIK SCHELZIG, Associated Press

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – The fatal shooting of four Marines and a sailor in Chattanooga has been voted the top Tennessee news story of 2015.

Muhammad Abdulazeez, a 24-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen, opened fire on a recruiting center and a reserve facility on July 16. The FBI recently described the attack as an act "inspired and motivated by foreign terrorist propaganda."

That finding means the Navy will award the Purple Heart to the five men killed and another Marine who was wounded in the attack.

Those killed were Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith and four Marines: Staff Sgt. David Wyatt, Sgt. Carson Holmquist, Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan and Lance Cpl. Squire "Skip" Wells. Sgt. DeMonte Cheeley was wounded.

Representatives of the family have said Abdulazeez had having problems that included depression and drug abuse.

More than three-quarters of the editors and reporters voting in The Associated Press survey chose the Chattanooga shooting spree as the top story of the year.

"As 2015 draws to a close, radical Islamic terrorism is the top story in the nation and, perhaps, in the world," said Knoxville News Sentinel editor Jack McElroy. "Tragically, the story struck home in Tennessee this year with the attacks in Chattanooga."

Alison Gerber, editor and director of content at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, said the shooting marked the "first time our state had suffered from the jihadist sentiment. It left people here feeling vulnerable."

Ted Hall, managing editor and anchor at WVLT-TV in Knoxville, said the significance of the Chattanooga shooting was clear well before the FBI confirmed it was terror-related.

"It brought to life what many of us feared – terrorism could happen in Tennessee," Hall said.

The Supreme Court's decision effectively legalizing gay marriage in Tennessee and around the country received the second-most votes in the AP survey.

The high court's decision was based on cases in four states including Tennessee, where three couples had sued to have their out-of-state marriages recognized.

The ruling "changes the definition of marriage and how the state looks at family," said Tammy Phillips, the news director of WMC-TV in Memphis.

Blake Farmer, the assistant news editor at WPLN-FM in Nashville, said the landmark ruling will long be remembered.

"We're just going to look back on this year as the year same-sex marriage was legalized," Farmer said.

Ranking third was the Republican-controlled Legislature's rejection of Gov. Bill Haslam's proposal to extend health coverage to 280,000 low-income Tennesseans.

Haslam had called a special session to take up his Insure Tennessee proposal. Under the two-year pilot program, hospitals would have covered the $74 million state share to draw down $2.8 billion in federal Medicaid funds.

But the governor was ultimately unable to persuade fellow Republicans to vote for a program tied to President Barack Obama's health care law.

Rounding out Tennessee's top 10 stories were:

– Chattanooga-made Volkswagen sedans being among those caught in a diesel emissions cheating scandal and the United Auto Workers winning a labor vote at the German automaker's lone U.S. plant.

– A Nashville judge granting a mistrial in the case of two former Vanderbilt football players convicted of rape.

– Haslam signing a bill into law to strip power of cities and counties to ban people with handgun carry permits from being armed in parks.

– The Tennessee Titans selecting Heisman winner Marcus Mariota with the second pick in the NFL draft.

– The death of former actor, lawyer and politician Fred Thompson.

– Five thousand people being evacuated after a Maryville train derailment.

Jim Strickland's election as the first white mayor of Memphis in 24 years; Megan Barry becoming the first female mayor of Nashville.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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