Former co-worker says killer was an angry, violent bigot
Ex-wife says suspect Omar Mateen abused her, held her hostage from family
As the world mourns the 49 victims of the Orlando nightclub massacre, investigators are working to piece together a picture of the man responsible for the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
What could have driven Omar Mir Seddique Mateen, a New York-born security guard who was the son of Afghan immigrants, to such a horrific act of violence – the biggest terror attack on U.S. soil since 9/11?
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Descriptions have quickly emerged of a troubled and angry individual.
His ex-wife, Sitora Yusufiy, described a brief but violent relationship to a mentally ill man whom she was only able to escape from through her family’s help. She said he was physically abusive and a steroid abuser.
And an ex-colleague who worked as a security guard alongside Mateen between 2014 and 2015 said his aggressive behavior eventually drove him to quit his job.
“He was an angry person, violent in nature, and a bigot to almost every class of person,” Dan Gilroy told CNN affiliate WPTV-TV in West Palm Beach. The former police officer asserts that he foresaw Mateen eventually committing an act of mass violence.
Mateen had even come to the attention of authorities, with the FBI interviewing him in two terror-related cases in recent years.
But both of the investigations were closed, and Mateen – who would go on to call 911 and pledge allegiance to ISIS during his rampage – was not under investigation or surveillance at the time of the attack.
Despite the red flags Mateen raised in his interactions with others, the mass killer was able to purchase a handgun and assault rifle legally in the days before the massacre, Trevor Velino of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives told reporters.
He had tried to buy body armor, but the store where he tried to make the purchase doesn’t sell that product, according to a store manager.
Cell phone tower data indicated he spent several hours Saturday at Disney Springs – the shopping and entertainment complex inside the Walt Disney World Resort – just prior to the attack, law enforcement officials said.
Mateen is believed to have been alone during that period, they said.
Four regular patrons at the Pulse nightclub, where the massacre took place, told the Orlando Sentinel they had seen Omar Mateen there before. In interviews with the newspaper, they said that he’d been there multiple times.
Prior visits to Pulse are a line of inquiry investigators are pursuing, sources involved in the investigation told CNN’s Jim Scuitto and Evan Perez.
FBI had investigated him twice
Mateen first came on the FBI’s radar in 2013 when he made “inflammatory comments to co-workers alleging possible terrorist ties,” Assistant Special Agent in Charge Ronald Hopper said. But investigators “were unable to verify the substance of his comments,” he said.
In 2014, the FBI interviewed Mateen again over possible connections with Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha, a Florida man who became the first known American suicide bomber in Syria. The men frequented the same mosque.
“We determined that contact was minimal and did not constitute a substantive relationship or threat at that time,” Hopper said.
FBI Director James Comey said that the agency is “highly confident” Mateen was radicalized, at least in part, by viewing extremism on the internet.
According to one official, analysis of Mateen’s electronic devices showed searches for jihadist propaganda, including videos of ISIS beheading.
“He consumed a hell of a lot of jihadist propaganda,” the source said.
“There are strong indications of radicalization by this killer and of potential inspiration by foreign terrorist organizations,” Comey said.
He said that investigators have found no indication the attack was directed from outside the United States or that Mateen was part of any kind of network.
A report Monday on the official online ISIS radio channel, Al-Bayan, described the attack as a “raid on a Crusader gathering” carried out by “one of the Caliphate’s soldiers in America.”
But there was no claim the attack was directed, just an after-the-fact assertion the gunman was an ISIS fighter.