Witnesses Say Mateen Was Spotted At Pulse Before Sunday’s Attack
ORLANDO – As the investigation into Omar Mateen, the gunman who attacked 350 people at Pulse, a posh gay nightclub, killing 49 and wounding 53 more early Sunday had been there at least a dozen times before. According to multiple witnesses report that Mateen, had been spotted at Pulse, before over months,prior to Sunday’s morning when he committed the worst mass shooting in the history of the United States.
At least four regular customers of Pulse, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender nightclub where the massacre took place, told the Orlando Sentinel on Monday that they believed they had seen Mateen there a number of occasions before.
Investigators are looking at reports that Mateen visited gay clubs and was using gay dating apps, a law enforcement official said. “Watch that space,” the official said.
Also Monday, officials said Mateen appeared to have been radicalized by Islamic extremists on the Internet but expressed sympathies with radical groups that violently oppose each other.
On Sunday morning, Mateen told a 911 dispatcher that he was attacking Pulse on behalf of the leader of Islamic State, FBI Director James B. Comey said at a news conference Monday. Mateen, 29, of Fort Pierce, Fla., was killed by a SWAT team and was among the 50 found dead at the site. Fifty-three more were wounded.
But Mateen, who was born in New York, had also expressed solidarity with the 2013 Boston bombers and an American suicide bomber who belonged to an Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria opposed to Islamic State, Comey said.
Comey, spoke that the FBI previously investigated Mateen, who was a security guard, for 11 months for telling co-workers in 2013 that he had relatives connected to Al Qaeda, the Sunni Muslim extremist group, while claiming he was a member of Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia, Comey said. Both groups oppose Islamic State and each other.
Again, the FBI also briefly investigated Mateen in 2014 on suspicion of watching videos by Al Qaeda propagandist Anwar Awlaki and for attending a mosque in Florida with a man who later became a suicide bomber for Al Nusra Front in Syria, which also opposes Islamic State. Both investigations were closed without an arrest. Comey defended his agents’ work but said the agency would still conduct a review.
“We know that this killing is upsetting to all Americans. We hope that our fellow Americans will not let fear become disabling,” Comey said. He added that fear “is what these savages want.”
FBI agents scrambled Monday to recover data from Mateen’s electronic media — cellphones, computers and other devices — hoping to find clues to what sparked the massacre at the nightclub, according to current and former FBI officials.
Video used in this story courtesy of CNN