What we know about Omar Mateen, the Orlando nightclub shooter

World Today

Omar Mateen

Authorities have identified the shooter as 29-year-old Omar Mateen of Port St. Lucie, Florida. In a 911 call from the club, Mateen professed allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Omar Mateen graduated from community college with a criminal justice degree, worked as a security guard and wanted to be a police officer.

But a police academy rejected his application, prompting Mateen to complain that he was denied because of his Muslim faith.

More details about Mateen emerged Wednesday as investigators retraced his movements and tried to talk to anyone who came in contact with him over the last several years. Mateen, a 29-year-old bodybuilder and devout Muslim, opened fire at a gay nightclub in Orlando early Sunday, leaving 49 people dead and 53 wounded. Mateen was killed during the attack.

A number of possible motives and explanations have surfaced, with Mateen calling 911 to profess allegiance to the Islamic State group, his ex-wife saying he was mentally ill and his father suggesting he hated gays.

Questions about Mateen’s sexuality

According to the Orlando Sentinel, Omar Mateen had been seen on numerous occasions at the Pulse nightclub before the shooting early Sunday.

A handful of Pulse regulars state they had seen Mateen at the club, and two men claim to have interacted with him on gay dating apps.

One Pulse regular, Ty Smith, told the Sentinel, Mateen was sometimes “loud and belligerent.”

Though the statements and claims have been reported in numerous press outlets, federal and local officials are yet to comment.

Mateen’s current wife: Noor Zahi Salman

Two sources familiar with the investigation have told NPR that a federal grand jury is considering whether Omar Mateen’s wife should face criminal charges related to the deadly attack.

Little by little, details have begun to emerge about 30-year-old Noor Zahi Salman, who grew up in the small suburb of Rodeo, California, tucked in the dry hills near the oil refineries 25 miles northeast of San Francisco.

Her romance with Omar Mateen began online, according to a neighbor, and they were married on Sept. 29, 2011, near her hometown, according to public records. The couple has a 3-year-old son.

Authorities believe Mateen’s wife knew about the plot ahead of time, said an official who was briefed on the progress of the case but insisted on anonymity to discuss a continuing investigation.

The official said investigators are reluctant to charge her only on the basis of possible advance knowledge of her husband’s plans.

Mateen’s family

Mateen was the son of an Afghan immigrant Seddique Mir Mateen who had a talk show in the United States. A former Afghan official said the program was pro-Taliban and a former colleague said it was enthusiastically pro-American.

Seddique Mateen is also a life insurance salesman who started a group in 2010 called Durand Jirga, Inc. The name refers to the Durand line, the long disputed border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Speaking to reporters on Monday morning, the shooter’s father said the attack was against his principles and against what he taught his son.

He said the family is shocked by what happened and that if he’d known what his son was planning, he would have arrested him himself.

“I apologize for what my son did. I am as sad and mad as you guys are,” Seddique Mateen said to reporters. “I don’t miss anything about him. What he did was against humanity.”

Killer’s father Seddique Mateen: “What my son did is a horrible thing”

Orlando shooter's father Seddique Mateen on Orlando shooting

Omar Mateen's father Seddique Mateen said he saw his son just hours before the murderous rampage, said he "became another person" and said he had no knowledge that his son purchased guns. (NBC video)

(NBC Video)

Seddique Mateen’s neighbor also spoke to CCTV about the impact of the shooting

Mateen attended evening prayer services at the city’s Islamic Center three to four times a week, most recently with his young son, said Imam Syed Shafeeq Rahman.

Rahman said he knew Mateen and his family since the shooter was a young boy. Playful as a child, he became more serious as an adult, Rahman said. He spoke both English and Farsi, and at one point wanted to become a police officer but never pursued it, the imam said. He was also into body building. He was not, as far as the imam could see, someone who would ever commit such a gruesome act of mass violence.

Although he was not very social, he also showed no signs of violence, Rahman said. He said he last saw Mateen on Friday.

“When he finished prayer he would just leave,” Rahman told The Associated Press. “He would not socialize with anybody. He would be quiet. He would be very peaceful.”

Omar Mateen

Omar Mateen selfie and driver’s license photo.

Mateen’s ex-wife, Sitora Yusufiy

He was also bipolar, Mateen’s ex-wife, Sitora Yusufiy, told reporters in Boulder, Colorado.

“He was mentally unstable and mentally ill,” Yusufiy said. Although records show the couple didn’t divorce for two years after the marriage, Yusiufiy said she was actually only with Mateen for four months because he was abusive. She said he would not let her speak to her family and that family members had to come and literally pull her out of his arms.

Omar Mateen’s ex-wife Sitora Yusufiy on Orlando Shooting

Omar Mateen's ex-wife Sitora Yusufiy reacts to the Orlando mass killing

Omar Mateen's ex-wife Sitora Yusufiy said she believes Mateen is mentally unstable and mentally ill. (AFP video)

(AFP Video)

Yusufiy said she was “devastated, shocked, started shaking and crying” when she heard about the shooting, but she attributed the violence to his mental illness, not any alliance with terrorist groups.

Orlando nightclub shooter Omar Mateen. (Photo from AFP)

Orlando nightclub shooter Omar Mateen. (Photo from AFP)

Rahman agreed.

“My personal opinion is that this has nothing to do with ISIS,” he said.

 

ISLAMIC STATE CALLS SHOOTER A ‘SOLDIER’

Authorities immediately began investigating whether the assault was an act of terrorism. A law enforcement official said the gunman made a 911 call from the nightclub professing allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Obama said investigators are still looking into killer’s motivations and considering all possibilities, noting that like the Islamic State have been known to target gays.

The Islamic State’s radio called Mateen “one of the soldiers of the caliphate in America.” Al-Bayan Radio, a media outlet for the extremist group, hailed the attack, saying that it targeted a gathering of Christians and gays and that it was the worst attack on U.S. soil since 9/11.

The statement gave no indication of whether the group planned or knew of the attack beforehand.

 

PRIOR FBI INVESTIGATIONS

Omar Mateen had no criminal record, but Yusufiy said he owned a pistol. She said he wanted to be a police officer and had applied to the police academy. Mateen was a security guard at the G4S company, which identifies itself on its website as “the leading global integrated security company.”

Orlando nightclub shooter Omar Mateen. (Photo from AFP)

Orlando nightclub shooter Omar Mateen. (Photo from AFP)

Daniel Gilroy told multiple news outlets that he worked with Mateen at G4S. Gilroy called him an angry, loud, profane man who used slurs for gay people, blacks, Jews and women. “He never used other words to describe them,” Gilroy told the Tampa Bay Times. Mateen also regularly made threats of violence, according to Gilroy.

FBI Director James Comey on prior investigations into Mateen:

FBI Director James Comey on initial investigations into Orlando shooter

FBI Director James Comey explains why the FBI interviewed Orlando shooter Omar Mateen was questioned twice by the FBI in 2013 and 2014.

“He talked about killing people all the time,” Gilroy told The New York Times. And Gilroy wasn’t surprised when he learned of the massacre: “I saw it coming.”

Gilroy said Mateen started badgering him and sending dozens of text messages to him daily. Gilroy said he reported Mateen’s behavior to his bosses.

“I kind of feel a little guilty that I didn’t fight harder,” Gilroy said. “If I didn’t walk away and I fought, then maybe 50 people would still be alive today.”

In 2013, after the shooter made inflammatory comments to co-workers The FBI interviewed him, according to FBI agent Ronald Hopper, who called the interviews inconclusive.

Meanwhile, a newly unearthed clip from a film documentary about the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico shows Mateen — then working as a security guard at a cleanup site in Florida — talking cynically about people who make money off disasters.

The clip from 2012’s “The Big Fix” showed Mateen chatting with an undercover film crew, saying no one cared about the cleanup.

“Everybody’s just out to get paid. They’re like hoping for more oil to come out and more people to complain so they’ll have the jobs,” he tells a woman who pulls up to his guard booth.
Security firm G4S confirmed Wednesday that the guard in the clip is Mateen. He was stationed in Pensacola for several months 2010 to assist with the oil spill cleanup, G4S spokeswoman Sarah Booth said.

Orlando nightclub shooter Omar Mateen. (Photo from AFP)

Orlando nightclub shooter Omar Mateen. (Photo from AFP)

FBI Director James Comey said Monday that in that interview Mateen admitted to making statements but said he did it in anger because he thought his coworkers were discriminating against him because he was a Muslim. They closed the investigation after 10 months.

St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara said Mateen was removed from an assignment at the county’s courthouse in 2013 after he made inflammatory comments about women, Jews and a shooting at Fort Hood.

In July 2014, officials found that Mateen had ties to an American suicide bomber and interviewed him again, but the agent described the contact as minimal, saying it did not constitute a threat at the time.

The FBI investigated Mateen over the comments and again in 2014 because of his ties to a Syrian suicide bomber from Florida but both cases were closed without the agency taking action.

Comey said that Mateen knew the suicide bomber only casually since they attended the same mosque.

Mateen purchased at least two firearms legally within the last week or so, according to Trevor Velinor of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Orlando nightclub shooter Omar Mateen. (Photo from AFP)

Orlando nightclub shooter Omar Mateen. (Photo from AFP)

Mateen exchanged gunfire with 14 police officers at the club and took hostages at one point. In addition to the assault rifle and handgun, he had a weapon in his vehicle, police said.

Police Chief John Mina said officers held back for some time because Mateen indicated he had a bomb vest. About 5 a.m., authorities sent in a SWAT team to rescue the remaining club-goers, Mina said.

Story by The Associated Press, Reuters, and AFP.