Omar Mateen: A life of contradictions
Shooting | Friends, family, and former co-workers paint very different pictures of Orlando attacker
by Samantha Gobba
Posted 6/14/16, 04:26 pm
Omar Mateen was no stranger to Pulse, the gay bar in Orlando, Fla., where he slaughtered 49 people on Sunday.
“He’s been going to this bar for at least three years,” drag dancer Chris Callen told the Canadian Press.
Callen and his partner, Ty Smith, said they saw Mateen at the bar at least a dozen times and were shocked to see his photo during news coverage of the shooting spree that killed more Americans than any other gun attack in U.S. history.
“[He’d get] really, really, drunk,” Smith said. “He couldn’t drink when he was at home—around his wife or family. His father was really strict.”
The twice-married, 29-year-old son of an Afghan immigrant led a life of anger and violence, and of apparent contradictions, according to emerging accounts from friends and family.
Staunchly Muslim, Mateen would become enraged over jokes about Islam, friends recalled. Once he pulled a knife over a joke one of Callen and Smith’s friends told: “He said if he ever messed with him again, you know how it’ll turn out,” Callen recalled.
After that, they stopped hanging out.
Ex-wife Sitora Yusufiy told CNN Mateen was physically abusive, and former co-worker Dan Gilroy said he was “an angry person, violent in nature, and a bigot to almost every class of person.”
Twice in past years the FBI investigated Mateen: in 2013, for “inflammatory comments to co-workers alleging possible terrorist ties,” FBI agent Ronald Hopper told CNN, and in 2014 for connections with suicide bomber Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha.
One FBI official said Mateen’s personal electronic devices showed evidence he “consumed a … lot of jihadist propaganda.”
But both investigations ended after officials didn’t find enough evidence to keep him on a watch list.
Although Sunday’s shooting has been called a hate crime, Mateen’s views on gays are muddled, at best. His father, Seddique Mir Mateen, told CNN his son saw a gay couple kiss in front of his wife and 3-year-old son and acted like the sight “was surprising to him.”
During the 911 call during the shooting, Mateen pledged allegiance to ISIS, and the Sharia law espoused by the terror group forbids homosexuality. In at least 10 Muslim-majority countries, homosexuality is punishable by death.
Even on British and U.S. soil, some radical Muslims say homosexuality should be punished by death. In 2012, British officials fined Radio Asian Fever 4,000 pounds after a presenter named “Sister Ruby Ramadan” said homosexuals deserved torture.
“If there are two such persons among you, that do this evil, the shameful act, what do you have to do? Torture them; punish them; beat them and give them mental torture,” she said.
Just weeks ago, Islamic scholar Sheikh Farrokh Sekaleshfar spoke at Orlando’s Husseini Islamic Center, where in 2013 he called for death for homosexuals: “There’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Death is the sentence. … We have to have that compassion for people. With homosexuals it’s the same. Out of compassion. Let’s get rid of them now.”
Yet Callen said Mateen “seemed really warm. … I don’t get the terrorist part of it.”
Pulse patron James Van Horn told ABC News he saw Mateen fully engaged in the gay club scene: “He would try to meet people and try to bump up against people and put his arm around and maybe try to dance with them or something, because that’s what everybody tries to do.”
Yusufiy told US Weekly her ex-husband had “homosexual tendencies,” but when asked directly if he was gay, she said, “I don’t know.”
An anonymous classmate from Mateen’s police training said Mateen went with him and others to gay bars while they were at Indian River State College together—back in 2006. Once, Mateen asked his classmate if he was gay: “You would be my kind of guy,” Mateen told him.
Florida resident Kevin West told ABC News Mateen contacted him on a gay dating app.
Mateen’s father denied speculation his son was gay and described him as “a very good boy, an educated boy, who had a child and a wife, very respectful of his parents.” He said the shooting was a shock: “If I knew 1 percent about what he was doing, I would have called the FBI.”
Mateen worked as a security guard for G4S, a company that hires out security for rock stars, crowd control, among other things. Mateen worked for a gated community in South Florida.
G4S issued a statement confirming his employment and describing the background checks that came up dry.
Mateen’s current wife, Noor Salman, apparently is cooperating with investigators and told NBC News she knew he was planning the attack and tried to talk him out of it.
But she didn’t succeed and on Sunday morning, Mateen walked into Pulse and committed the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11. Before police burst through a wall and shot him, Mateen killed 49 and injured at least 53.
One thing Norman Casiano will never forget is the sound of the shooter’s laugh as he gunned down someone in a bathroom stall.
As Casiano stared at the spreading pool of blood while he stood, silently huddled in a stall crammed with others, he heard a sound like no other.
“I’ve literally been in the hospital for two days trying to sleep, and one of the first things I hear when I close my eyes are guns, bullets hitting the floor, and just, that laugh,” he said. “It was like a villain in a movie. It was a laugh of satisfaction, like, ‘I’m doing what I came here to do.’ It was pure evil.”
Samantha reports on the pro-life movement for WORLD Digital.