The Commercial Appeal
FBI questioned gunman in two previous cases
No known criminal record
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Investigators were reviewing possible terror and hate-crime links to a gunman who professed his allegiance to the Islamic State group from the scene of a mass shooting at a crowded Orlando nightclub early Sunday, the FBI said.
Omar Mateen, 29, of Fort Pierce, Florida, acknowledged his support for the terror group during a 911 call from the nightclub, Orlando FBI chief Ron Hopper said.
During the call, placed after the first shots were fired, Mateen also made reference to the deadly 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, said a separate federal law enforcement official who was not authorized to comment publicly.
Hopper confirmed Mateen had been interviewed by federal authorities three times in connection with two investigations during the past three years. In the most recent case, the FBI reviewed Mateen’s alleged contacts in 2014 with Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha, an American suicide bomber who died in Syria the same year.
Hopper said the case was closed when investigators determined that Mateen’s contacts were “minimal.” A federal law enforcement official later said a review of the Abu Salha case found no direct
contact between Mateen and the bomber. The two attended the same mosque, the official said.
In a 2013 investigation, investigators interviewed Mateen twice about “inflammatory comments” he made to a co-worker about possible ties to international terrorism. That case also was closed when authorities were unable to verify the comments.
Mateen was not under investigation at the time of the shooting, a status that allowed for his purchase of a handgun and an AR-15 rifle used in the assault. A Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives trace found the firearms were purchased legally in Florida within the last few days.
Local law enforcement records show no apparent criminal history in Florida.
Mateen’s family was from Afghanistan, and he was born in New York. His family later moved to Florida, authorities said.
Imam Syed Shafeeq Rahman said Mateen attended evening prayer services at the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce three to four times a week, most recently with his young son.
Mateen was not very social, but he showed no signs of violence, said Rahman, who 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.”
Rahman said he knew Mateen and his family since the gunman was a boy. Playful as a child, he became more serious as an adult, Rahman said. Mateen 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.
Mateen received an associate’s of science degree in criminal justice technology in 2006 from Indian River State College, according to college spokeswoman Michelle Abaldo.
Mateen’s ex-wife, Sitora Yusufiy, told reporters that her former husband was “bipolar” and “mentally unstable.”
Mateen was short-tempered and had a history with steroids, Yusufiy said in remarks televised from Boulder, Colorado. She described him as religious but not radical.
A former Fort Pierce police officer who once worked with Mateen as a security guard at PGA Village in Port St. Lucie, Florida, called Mateen “unhinged and unstable.”
Daniel Gilroy said Mateen frequently made homophobic and racial comments. Gilroy said he complained to his employer several times and quit after he said Mateen began stalking him with up to 20 or 30 texts per day. He also left Gilroy 13 to 15 phone messages a day, the former officer said.
“I quit because everything he said was toxic,” Gilroy said Sunday, “and the company wouldn’t do anything. This guy was unhinged and unstable. He talked of killing people.”
John Kenning, a regional G4S Security chief executive, confirmed Mateen had been employed there since September 2007. “We are shocked and saddened by the tragic event that occurred at the Orlando nightclub,” Kenning said in a written statement.
Two of Mateen’s acquaintances described the gunman’s actions as out of character.
“He would never shoot anybody or kill anybody,” Lamont Owens said, adding that he had not seen Mateen for a few years.
Ryan Jones described Mateen as normal, though he also acknowledged not having contact with Mateen for several years. “He was a cool, calm and collected person,” Jones said.
I quit because everything he said was toxic, and the company wouldn’t do anything. This guy was unhinged and unstable. He talked of killing people.” Daniel Gilroy, co-worker of Mateen’s at G4S Security