MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — New details are emerging about the 33-year-old former Minnesotan who died while fighting in Syria.

Douglas McCain was arrested in 2008 in the Twin Cities when he gave police false information.

And anti-ISIS fighters found a U.S. passport in McCain’s pocket and released a photo of him, after he was killed in battle, showing a distinctive tattoo on his neck.

U.S. officials say McCain died in Northwestern Syria near the town of Aleppo, which has been the site of some of the fiercest fighting.

At a State Department briefing, a spokesperson said the United States is aware of other Americans who have traveled to Syria to fight for ISIS.

Friends who grew up with McCain in Minnesota say they cannot believe the man who died on a battlefield fighting for a brutal terrorist group is the same person they once knew.

During his years at Robbinsdale Cooper, McCain was known for his love of rap music and basketball. Friends say he was even considered a class clown.

The image of Douglas McCain captured as he lay dead is difficult for friends here to comprehend.

Isaac Chase, who grew up with McCain, said he was raised Christian.

“His mom was very religious,” Chase said. “He went to church every Sunday.”

Chase said that when he returned from his own military service in Iraq, McCain offered praise.

“He said he was proud of me being in the military,” Chase said.

Chase said he last saw McCain in 2008 and can’t understand how he could have become radicalized.

“It don’t make no sense,” Chase said. “The Doug I know is a good person, and I wouldn’t even think that he would do anything like that.”

Court records show McCain was arrested nine times in Minnesota between 2000 and 2009, all for relatively minor offenses ranging from disorderly conduct to marijuana possession.

Sometime after 2008, friends say he moved to San Diego, where he worked briefly at a restaurant and attended a mosque.

On social media and in interviews, family members said they knew that McCain has gone to Turkey in April but did not know he had joined up with ISIS.

His Twitter feed also offered clues. A June retweet said, “pray for ISIS.”

The White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, said ISIS has attracted recruits from 50 different countries.

“These are individuals who have been radicalized,” Earnest said. “These are individuals who have received some military training. In some cases, they’re battle tested, and they’ve demonstrated, as Mr. McCain did, a willingness to die for their cause.”

Both the White House and the State Department said they knew McCain was in Iraq and that he was on U.S. terror watch lists. There was a report out of Syria that a second American was killed over the weekend fighting for ISIS, but the State Department said they could not confirm that.


Esme Murphy


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