How Douglas McAuthur McCain Became the First American to Die Fighting for the Islamic State

This March 23, 2008 photo provided by the Hennepin County, Minn. Sheriff's Office shows Douglas McAuthur McCain. (AP Photo/Hennepin County, Minn.)
This March 23, 2008 photo provided by the Hennepin County, Minn. Sheriff's Office shows Douglas McAuthur McCain. (AP Photo/Hennepin County, Minn.)
This March 23, 2008 photo provided by the Hennepin County, Minn. Sheriff’s Office shows Douglas McAuthur McCain. (AP Photo/Hennepin County, Minn.)

 

(The Washington Post) – Douglas McAuthur McCain, tattooed and thin, never stayed in one place long. Born on Jan. 29, 1981, in Illinois, he would spend 33 years hopping from school to school, from business to business, continent to continent — until, finally, he landed in Syria, where he became the first American reported to die fighting for the Islamic State.

Much of the Douglas McAuthur McCain story remains unclear. It’s unclear how he died in a recent Islamic State battle, into which he carried his American passport and $800. It’s unexplained what led him down a path to Islamist radicalization and violence. And it’s unknown whether he traveled alone.

A review of court records, social media accounts and news clippings does little to answer any of those questions, but instead conveys the profound contrast between the McCain who violently died in Syria — and the Midwestern McCain who rapped, worked dead end jobs, picked up a few petty convictions and was “just a regular American kid,” as one friend told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

His early life was one slice of Americana after another: He followed the Chicago Bulls, was a fan of Michael Jordan, watched “The Simpsons” and developed an affinity for Pizza Hut. After moving to the Minneapolis area as a boy, he played basketball in high school, though classmates tell reporters he wasn’t any good. Between 1997 and 2000, he attended two different high schools in the Robbinsdale Area School District, though the New York Times says district records don’t show him graduating from either school.

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