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 Gobba

Samantha reports on the pro-life movement for WORLD Digital.

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  • Sawgunner's picture
    Posted: Tue, 06/14/2016 11:49 pm

    This young man is as we know from the Afghan culture. It doesn't seem as though he ever truly "Americanized" and in fact as with so many muslims the lure of and immersion into jihadi radicalism seems to be more a way to re-assert loyalty to his heritage versus "betraying" it as so many often do when they embrace secularist views of the modern west. We have no way of knowing but might he have been in his early adolescence a victim of the prevalent "BATCHA BAZI" wherein older allegedly straight muslim men cavort with "dancing boys" with eventual rectal penetration? Eventually the boys get too old and are cast aside. The recipient of anal sodomy (though not the dominant older male) is uniformly despised, ridiculed and ostracized from at-large Afghan culture leading to depression, drugs and eventual suicide. This man's hatred for homosexuals may have been a type of PTSD. Some suggest gay bar patronage was an effort to reconnoiter or "case the joint" yet that surely doesn't take 3 years. If he was rejected by other men that might have been the catalyst for his rampage.

  • Sawgunner's picture
    Posted: Tue, 06/14/2016 11:54 pm

    Sadly, this case also shows the flaws in our background investigation of jihadists. If you know you're a person of interest you likely lay low, decrease or cease all jihadi hi jinx and just "wait out" the FBI team. Should they persist you then go get yourself all "lawyered up" and allege discrimination. It now seems the easier thing to do would be to recognize the increased likelihood of folks from certain areas of the world being far more likely to embrace hihad and or expose their kids to its heinous creed even when raised in the USA. This man's parents of course came to USA before anyone even knew about AlQaeda or ISIS

  • DakotaLutheran
    Posted: Fri, 06/17/2016 10:11 am

    Our culture has confused the issue by steadfastly asking whether someone is gay or not. This article does the same. No one is gay. Some people perform homosexual acts. To insist that you are gay or not is to attach irrevocably to someone by their very natures certain attributes. It is possible that Mateen was a victim of this cultural insistence. To those who want to continue in their homosexuality, it is a comfort to believe that this is "who they are." To those who resist such practices, it is a hard trap. Today, for a person to be "who they are" is a moral absolute. No longer can we discern a difference between this question and the question of "who we ought to be." It is possible that Mateen was still able to discern the difference between the two, and to know the real tension that follows. Today we have largely lost the ability to find this hard tension. If we did, we would not know what to do with it. The best we could muster would be some attempt at amending our ways, some attempt at softening the tension, either by deception or fits of compliance. What is lacking is any profound sense of the filth of sin. For us it is easily swept clean, like crumbs having fallen on our clothes. Mateen, it seems, could not so easily wipe himself clean. So he did what all sin requires: death. We cannot understand this today. So we must make out Mateen to be insane or somehow possessed by ISIS propaganda. It would terrify us to think that there is such a thing as sin and that it could attach itself to us. How odd then that the closest we come to an understanding of sin is in our very understanding of being gay and of being "who we are." It is no wonder, then, that we are incapable today to allow the mere hint that homosexual practices, or a wide array of such activities, are wrong. We hesitate to even suggest that any activity is wrong for fear that the same might be said of us. After all, we still have a primitive grasp of what follows upon wrong behavior. Better then to be "inclusive," "tolerant," and "kind." Hidden beneath this moral facade is a dread of morality, not for what it might mean for others, but for what it might mean for us. Consequent of any profound understanding of sin, is any understanding of true forgiveness. Sin, after all, sticks to us like the past and cannot be skaken clean. It demands punishment, and worse. As such, forgiveness does what is impossible: it allows us to go on. It gives us more time, when guilt demands an end to it. Is it any wonder, then, that it requires Blood? This is all too much for us today in our thin lives, where hardly anything really matters, and nothing sticks to us. Mateen was caught in this vice of sin and guilt. With no way out, he choose to end it all. He is, for us, the sign of Judas, who did the same, and a powerful reminder of the dynamite of forgiveness, and Peter's way. There is for us, who are actually alive, always these two: the way of Judas and that of Peter. Along one lies the way to death and destruction, along the other that of life. Today we have lost these paths and muddle about mostly in what matters little. What was once small is now all we have. We are little people with little lives, easily shocked by the sight of blood and the life it portends. 

  •  Marvin's picture
    Posted: Sat, 06/18/2016 07:59 am

    Did not a "contradictory life" used to be called hypocrisy?