The gunman who massacred 49 people at the Pulse club in Orlando was himself a regular at the gay nightspot, four club-goers told the Orlando Sentinel on Monday.
“Sometimes he would go over in the corner and sit and drink by himself, and other times he would get so drunk he was loud and belligerent,” Ty Smith told the Sentinel, referring to slain shooter Omar Mateen, 29.
Smith told the paper that he saw Mateen inside at least a dozen times.
“We didn’t really talk to him a lot, but I remember him saying things about his dad at times,” Smith said. “He told us he had a wife and child.”
Another Pulse regular, Kevin West, told the Los Angeles Times that Mateen messaged him on and off for a year using a gay chat app. West also said he passed Mateen in the street on the night of the attack and they exchanged greetings.
And other club-goers told local media and MSNBC that Mateen had been using multiple gay apps, including Grindr, with mutual acquaintances to “hook up.”
The Palm Beach Post reported Monday that when Mateen attended the Indian River Community College police academy in 2006, he asked a male classmate out on a date.
“We went to a few gay bars with him, and I was not out at the time, so I declined his offer,” the classmate, who asked to not be identified, said.
He described Mateen as being a social misfit that others felt sorry for.
“He just wanted to fit in and no one liked him,” he said. “He was always socially awkward.”
According to a Gawker report, Mateen’s ex-wife, Sitora Yusufiy, and her boyfriend gave an interview in Portuguese with Brazilian TV on Monday. During the interview, her boyfriend said Mateen had “gay tendencies.” He also claimed that Yusufiy had told the FBI she did not believe Mateen was a member of a terrorist organization and that the FBI had told her to keep quiet about it.
“The FBI asked her not to tell this to the American media,” the boyfriend, who was not named in the report, said.
Mateen also was at Walt Disney World in April, said a Disney manager who requested anonymity.
His second wife, Noor Zahi Salman, was not cooperating with authorities, according to a law enforcement official who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the Sentinel said.
The attack, which was the deadliest mass shooting in recent US history, also wounded 53 people.
FBI chief James Comey said Monday his bureau was “highly confident” Mateen had been “radicalized” while consuming online propaganda and that he had claimed allegiance to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a series of calls during the attack.
Mateen was the son of an Afghan immigrant who had a talk show in the United States, the nature of which was not entirely clear: A former Afghan official said the program was pro-Taliban and a former colleague said it was enthusiastically pro-American.
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. 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.”
He was also bipolar, Yusufiy, Mateen’s ex-wife, told reporters in Boulder, Colorado.
“He was mentally unstable and mentally ill,” she 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.
Authorities immediately began investigating whether the attack 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. The law enforcement official is familiar with the investigation but was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Yusufiy said she was “devastated, shocked, started shaking and crying” when she heard about the shooting, but she attributed the violence to Mateen’s mental illness, not any alliance with terrorist groups.
“My personal opinion is that this has nothing to do with ISIS,” he said, using a common acronym for the Islamic State group.
On Monday, the shooter’s father, Seddique Mir Mateen, spoke to reporters outside his Port St. Lucie home about his son, saying “what he did was the act of a terrorist.”
“I apologize for what my son did. I am as sad and mad as you guys are,” he said from his living room. He wouldn’t go into details about any religious or political views his son held, insisting he didn’t know.
Asked whether he missed his son, he said, “I don’t miss anything about him. What he did was against humanity.”