Gunman Was a Familiar Face at LGBT Club

Surviving customers say Mateen was a regular, used gay dating apps
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 14, 2016 1:25 AM CDT
Updated Jun 14, 2016 6:30 AM CDT
Gunman Was a Familiar Face at LGBT Club
This photo provided by the Orlando Police Department shows Omar Mateen.   (Orlando Police Department via AP)

The night that Omar Mateen carried out the deadliest mass shooting in US history was far from his first visit to Orlando's Pulse nightclub, surviving customers say. The Orlando Sentinel spoke to at least four customers who recalled seeing Mateen in the LGBT club. Ty Smith says he had seen the 29-year-old there at least a dozen times and remembers him talking about his father and telling him he had a wife and child. "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," Smith says. Another customer says Mateen had been coming in for years and was prone to violent outbursts. In other developments:

  • Kevin West, another Pulse regular, tells the Los Angeles Times that he had exchanged occasional messages with Mateen for a year on the gay dating app Jack'd but had never laid eyes on him until an hour before the shooting, when he spotted him while dropping a friend off at the club. "He walked directly past me. I said, 'Hey,' and he turned and said, 'Hey,' and nodded his head," West says. "I could tell by the eyes."

  • Pulse regular Cord Cedeno tells MSNBC that he and his friends had seen Mateen on gay dating apps, including Grindr. "I instantly blocked him because he was very creepy in his messages. I blocked him immediately," Cedeno says. No profiles of Mateen from such apps have surfaced yet, though Cedeno says two friends that encountered Mateen online have turned their phones over to the FBI.
  • Lisa Lane, a performer at Pulse, tells the Advocate that she knows Mateen's face from her shows at the club. "He was one of my fans," she says. "Always when he saw me he would talk to me."
  • In a look at Mateen's past, the AP finds an all-American list of early employers: Publix, Circuit City, Chick-fil-A, Walgreens, and Gold's Gym. He worked at a state prison for six months beginning in 2006 and was hired the following year by security firm G4S. His assignments included guard duty at the St. Lucie County Courthouse in Fort Pierce. Up until the Pulse massacre, he was working as a security guard at a gated retirement community.
  • Former classmates at Florida's Martin County High School tell the Miami Herald that Mateen was a loner who behaved very strangely on the week of the 9/11 attacks—at one point, he claimed Osama bin Laden was his uncle—and was expelled soon afterward.
  • A law enforcement source tells People that Mateen and his wife, Noor Zahi Salman, visited Walt Disney World in April, and Mateen may have been looking for potential targets at the time.
  • NBC Bay Area reports that Salman, Mateen's second wife, grew up near San Francisco and moved to Florida around five years ago, which is apparently when she married Mateen. WSVN reports that she was accompanied by police officers Monday night when she went to the apartment she shared with Mateen and their 3-year-old son to pick up belongings.
(More Omar Mateen stories.)

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