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The New York Times

Capitol suspect fought before the attack, but the motive remains unclear

On the soccer field at Christopher Newport University in Virginia, Noah R. Green was number 21, a reliable and good-natured, if softly spoken, presence in the defensive field. Outside of the field, he focused on strengthening the black economy, advising teammates on financial management, and planning a career that helped fill the racial wealth gap. But in late March, after a bloody year of pandemic that friends and family said was isolated and mentally disconnected, Green’s life turned increasingly to the nation of Islam and its leader Louis Farrakhan, who has repeatedly promoted anti-Semitism. “Farrakhan supporter,” said Green on Facebook, describing how he left his job and faced “some of the greatest, most unimaginable tests of my life.” None of this seemed to suggest what he would do next. On Friday afternoon, police officers said Green, 25, drove a dark blue Nissan sedan from nearby Virginia to the U.S. Capitol and plowed two police officers who were protecting the site, killing one and injuring another. Then he got out of the car with a knife and pounced on officers. The police shot him and mortally wounded him. Sign up for The Morning Newsletter from the New York Times. The attack, which pierced the calm of a spring afternoon on Capitol Hill, halted the return to normalcy that had been slowly emerging after the deadly January 6 riot. It sent the police protecting the Capitol on a new round of mourning and hampered a heated debate over how to secure the seat of Congress at a time of increasing threat. And the question arose how a dedicated athlete and aspiring businessman with no known history of violence turned his car into a lethal weapon. With no clear motive, investigators desperately combed through a slew of social media posts and a trail of suffering described by people close to Green to try to understand what had happened. The police did not classify the incident as an act of domestic terrorism. A senior law enforcement officer, who spoke anonymously to describe the active investigation, said investigators believed, based on early evidence, that Green was influenced by a combination of underlying mental health problems and a connection to an ideological cause that justified the cause Committing violence. Brendan Green told the Washington Post on Friday that his brother had been vacillating for months, plagued by mental health problems and possibly drugs. Noah Green moved to Botswana briefly this year and tried to jump in front of a car before returning and asking to move in with his brother in a suburb of Virginia, not far from Washington. Brendan Green said his brother got seriously ill on Thursday night and left the apartment saying he was ready to be homeless. Attempts to reach Brendan Green and other members of the Green family were unsuccessful, including at his home in Virginia. The family issued a statement to the Post on Saturday expressing condolences to the family of officer William F. Evans who died in the attack and speculating that Noah Green’s bouts may be related to head injuries related to football. Noah Green, one of ten siblings, grew up in Covington, Virginia, a largely white town in the Shenandoah Valley of less than 6,000 people that is dominated by a WestRock paper mill. He didn’t describe it as “the best of circumstances” on Facebook, but at Alleghany High School he was voted the soccer team MVP and won honors on the track team. After a stint at Glenville State College in West Virginia, he moved to Christopher Newport University, a small public school in Newport News, Virginia, where he studied business and joined the soccer team. On a university gamer profile, he talked about dreaming of vacationing in Jamaica and admiring his grandmother and Malcolm X. Former teammates called Green a hard worker and said he was close to his family, whose members would make the long drive across the city to see him play. But on and off the field, they said, he mostly stayed to himself. “He would be there, but he likes not actually being there,” said Chet Wilborne, a defense attorney. “I feel like he always felt like an outsider.” Wilborne recalled that the distance only increased after Green accused someone of drugging them with Xanax, a powerful anti-anxiety drug, without his knowledge. Wilborne recalled Green and said that the incident “changed the way I think about people”. “Everyone in the school talked about it,” said Wilborne. Another teammate, who asked to remain anonymous, given the sensitivity of the ongoing investigation, recalled that Green often spoke to fellow players about saving and investing strategies and stressed the need to bridge the prosperity gap between White and Black America. Green volunteered one summer for a college violence prevention program on nearby Hampton Roads. And after college, the teammate said, Green began working as a financial advisor with an effort to start a financial company to help the black community and eradicate poverty. Green made little secret of his recent struggles and his apparently growing interest in the nation of Islam. He published speeches and articles by Farrakhan and Elijah Muhammad, who led the Nation of Islam from 1934 to 1975 and discussed the decline of America. A series of posts in the early hours of March 17th recorded his course as he saw it. “I graduated with honors, got a well-paying job right out of college, and graduated even though I didn’t grow up in the best of circumstances,” he wrote on Facebook. “My primary goal, as the minister said years ago, was to learn the business and thereby improve the lives of the communities most in need. Especially the black and brown communities here in the USA. “But, wrote Green, Allah obviously had other plans. He said he was newly unemployed after leaving his job “partly due to suffering” with no name. He pointed out in no detail about “struggling with the side effects of drugs I was unknowingly using”. His ambitions to build a career in business had been “thwarted”. “I haven’t had much to do in the past few months, facing anxiety, hunger, loss of wealth, and depletion of fruits,” he wrote. “My faith is one of the few things that have carried me through these times.” Green also posted a photo of a $ 1,085 donation he made as “Noah X” to the Norfolk Chapter of the Nation of Islam for the Day of the Redeemer, the holiday celebrating its founder’s birthday. A group of members standing outside the Norfolk chapter on Saturday declined to comment on Green when approached by a reporter. The Nation of Islam, a black nationalist movement advocating self-sufficiency for African Americans, has been condemned by the Southern Poverty Law Center for “the deeply racist, anti-Semitic and anti-gay rhetoric of its leaders,” including Farrakhan. Green’s compliance will likely increase control of the group as investigators attempt to determine if his beliefs played a role in Friday’s attack. The relationship between violence and the nation of Islam has been debated since it began some 90 years ago, especially since outsiders and insiders disagreed on its teachings. “From the earliest times in the nation’s history, people have taken these texts and said it is about killing white people,” said Michael Muhammad Knight, an assistant professor of religion and cultural studies at the University of Central Florida, who said Islam specializes in American. “The nation has a very strong anti-violence discourse that goes back to the very beginning,” he said. “When you look at the nation, you consistently fail to see the number of bodies white supremacist organizations have.” In his Facebook posts, Green sometimes used apocalyptic language, suggesting that he believed in an impending conflict at the end of the world. He was referring to the “mother wheel,” which in the nation’s teachings is a spaceship that will descend to America in an apocalyptic battle, Knight explained. In his last Facebook post on March 21, Green wrote about a “divine warning” that these were the “last days of our world as we know it”. Court records in Indiana, where he lived briefly, show that Green filed a motion in December to legally change his name to Noah Zaeem Muhammad. However, when he failed to appear for a hearing in the final days of March, the case was dismissed. At this point he was back in Virginia and living with his brother. Only a few days later he would be driving to the Capitol. This article originally appeared in the New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company

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